Friday, June 02, 2006

Zim commercial farmers in Mozambique leaving

Mozambique started openly courting Zimbabwe's mainly white commercial farmers after the ZANU-PF government instituted its fast-track land reform programme in 2000 and the agricultural sector, a mainstay of the neighbouring country's economy, began to crumble.But unlike Zambia, Mozambique's romance with the migrant Zimbabweans appears to have faded in the past two years, "mostly because Mozambique was not ready for them", said Joseph Hanlon, a senior lecturer in development policy and practice at the London-based Open University. Hanlon has written extensively on the subject.

Encouraged by tobacco and paprika companies, which provided financial support, at least 42 farmers moved to Mozambique, mostly in the central Manica province on the Zimbabwe border, where the government allowed them to rent up to 1,000ha of land for 50 years.

According to Joel Caibone, a member of local civil society, the Zimbabwean farmers not only helped uplift subsistence farmers in the province, but "also brought and taught new farming techniques to the local farmers".Small-scale farmers were also contracted to plant paprika and tobacco to meet the companies' demand, and at the peak of the agricultural boom that followed, 13,500 families were growing tobacco, 3,600 growing sunflowers and more than 3,000 growing paprika, as well as over 100 groups organised to grow baby corn and other vegetables for export, said Hanlon's paper,

'The Manica Miracle is Over', written jointly with researcher Teresa Smart.The farmers managed to create 5,000 permanent and seasonal jobs. Four units were also set up to process roses and vegetables for export to Europe, and sunflower oil and milk for local sale, creating hundreds more jobs, according to Hanlon.In the last two years the situation has changed drastically.

"Most of the Zimbabweans are in deep financial trouble and some have already left," Hanlon told IRIN. Production of roses and sunflower oil has ended, while medium-scale Mozambican and Zimbabwean farmers are producing smaller quantities of tobacco and paprika. The number of families growing tobacco has dwindled to 5,000 and there are few jobs on farms.The main problem was that the Zimbabwean farmers lacked funds and Mozambique does not have an agricultural support system.

There was a "lack of technical support, there is a total lack of finance for farming - both short-term annual finance for inputs and wages, and long-term investment finance. In many other countries, land is cleared and dams and basic irrigation infrastructure built by the government, usually on very long-term soft loans. In Mozambique, this is all the responsibility of the farmer, and there is no credit," explained Hanlon.

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