An assessment of the transformation of Mkwasine Sugar Estate after land reform : the tensions and conflicts.
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In examining whether corporate agriculture can be replaced by small-scale agriculture undertaken through the nucleus estate-out grower model after land reform in Zimbabwe‟s sugar estates in the south eastern Lowveld, there is need to answer the following critical questions: Has the unbundling of formerly large–scale corporate plantations to much smaller scale farming units destroyed the once vibrant sugar estate? Is the participation of ordinary farmers without experience in sugarcane-production a wise move and does that initiate new modes of accumulation from below? Can contract farming arrangements with corporate processors or buyers provide a more viable support model than involving state support in kick-starting small-scale farmers‟ entry into sugarcane production? Who currently owns what, who does what, who gets what and what do they do with it? Despite the negative perception being peddled in the local and international media about the dramatic transformation of the three sugar estates in Zimbabwe‟s south eastern Lowveld, land redistribution in the sugar estates had to be done to redress the colonial disparity in land ownership. This study therefore examined the subdivision of one of the sugar estates (Mkwasine Estate) into small-scale farming units, against the backdrop of tensions and conflicts between a South African multinational firm-Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe (THZ) and the resettled black farmers. This is done to determine the changes that have occurred in the land ownership structure, land tenure system as well as contestations that arose over input accessibility, utility provision and sugar pricing after the reconfiguration of the estate. To achieve this, a stratified random sample of 45 farmers from three broad farmers‟ strata, namely the high, middle and low producer categories was used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data that described what unfolded in the estate in the aftermath of land reform. Overall, the results highlighted significant land ownership and tenure system changes in the estate after the transformation. The results also established tenure insecurity in the estate as freehold tenure paved way to leasehold tenure after the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). There was gender disparity in the land allocation exercise as only 31.1% of the sample who benefited is women compared to 68.9 % men. Of the same sample 73.3% of the beneficiaries had no sugarcane farming experience against 26.7% who had it prior to receiving farms on the estate. The former are A2 farmers who were resettled under the FTLRP and came from the civil (35.5%) as well as the security services (37.8%) and are farming on a part time basis. The term "A2 farmers‟ refer to a new class of black commercial farmers introduced by government under the FTLRP to deracialise commercial farming. The latter (26.7%) came from the Chipiwa Settlement Scheme and are into full-time sugarcane farming and are former THZ employees. Since their incorporation in the industry, the resettled farmers‟ contribution to total sugar output rose from 17% in 2011 to 33% in 2016. The study also established that two formulas are used by Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe (THZ) to procure the farmers‟ sugarcane namely the milling agreement (MA) and the cane purchase agreement (CPA). The MA allows farmers to enjoy proceeds from byproducts of sugar whereas the CPA does not allow farmers to enjoy those benefits. Of the sample 26.7% indicated they use the MA and 73.3 % used the CPA raising questions as to why two procurement formulas were used by THZ for farmers on the same estate. Lastly, further evidence from the study also shows the benefits of land reform going beyond sugar production as all the resettled farmers in the estate engage in a diverse range of livelihood portfolios like petty trading, livestock farming and natural resources extraction to augment their family incomes. The study recommends farmer capacity and capability building since over 70% of the sample had no prior sugarcane farming experience. It also recommends the standardization of land sizes and tenure system as well as the adoption of one procurement price for all the farmers‟ sugarcane in the estate. The formation of a sugar council by all the stakeholders to regulate the industry by government is also recommended as it does to other crops under its input support programmes. This would greatly reduce the challenges facing the sugar industry in Zimbabwe.