Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Utopia Research & Design - land reform in Zimbabwe

Tribe discussion Zimbabwean land reform. X.J. makes some good points :

Yes, this is a big tragedy and completely caused by Mugabe. If you enacted the same policy in the US, to suddenly seize farmland of farmers, drive the farmers off, and give the land to other people (the race is irrelevant) who have no knowledge of farming, the result would be exactly the same. The story about how 'the whites took all the good farmland and we are taking it back' is nonsense - the reason that the white farms are productive is not because they are on magic land but because the farmers have sane land management practices. They fertilize and irrigate properly, aware of mistakes in the past such as the poor practices that lead to the Oklahoma dust bowl of the 1930s (planting identical cash crops year after year depletes the soil and creates a desert). The soil in Zimbabwean farms is fertile because of the work the farmers have done to make it so. Such work is a necessary ongoing process. Farming is not easy and can not be learned over night - the knowledge transfer takes decades. Having wiped out their farming industry in only a few years, they are really screwed now and there is no easy fix. Reestablishing those farms will take fertilizer and it will take tractors. Yet Zimbabwe has now squandered their resources and can not afford to buy these things. And even if they bought these things it would do no good because the human resources with the knowledge to fix things have been driven out of the country and are not coming back. Mugabwe has created a racist, white-hating atmosphere that means it would be too dangerous to return, even if he is removed from power.

Zimbabwe and South Africa are the two bread-basket economies of Africa which grow the food that keeps the rest of Africa fed. Losing Zimbabwe is having far reaching effects throughout Africa.

On the topic of how to do this better, here is the solution. First, it is not true that the only good land is that owned by whites and therefore it must be seized. This is a recipe for destruction. Instead, a sane plan would be to have a farming education program. People interested in farming would be given free land grants. Farming offices would be established in those areas with agriculture agents to teach farming techniques. Modest land taxes would enable land that is not being used fairly by its owners to return peacefully back to the land available for further grants to others.

No comments: