Land reform and poverty alleviation in Mashonaland East, Zimbabwe
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The study is an investigation into the linkage between, landownership and poverty alleviation in Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe. The focus is directed by the fact that in Zimbabwe, the poorest live in rural areas. The problem of rural poverty has been attributed, in part, to lack of access to land due to historical imbalances arising from colonialism. The objective of this study is to find out how the livelihoods of those who were resettled have been transformed. Despite heated debate among scholars on Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform, a systematic investigation of the relationship between access to land and poverty alleviation in Zimbabwe is generally weak; consequently, there are gaps in the analysis of land occupation processes and what is required for sustainable agrarian livelihoods. Indeed, the programme of land reform is crucial to the resolution of rural poverty. It is, therefore, important that such a programme be implemented in a fair, just and sustainable manner in the interest of all the stakeholders within the ambits of the law and constitution of Zimbabwe. The approach followed in the discussion can be described as moving from the macro to the micro in that the thesis covers broad but very important contextual issues about the political history of the land question in Zimbabwe and then narrows down to a discussion of land reform and poverty in Mashonaland East. The theoretical position of the study is that the land question in Zimbabwe is by and large, a political issue. The key argument is that distribution of society’s scarce resources in Zimbabwe is primarily informed by political calculations rather than non-partisan concerns for alleviation of poverty at the grassroots of society. Land is finite and therefore a scarce resource and its redistribution has largely been informed by political calculations rather than consistent criteria to deal with the plight of the rural poor based on measured levels of need and poverty. The politicization of land reform in Zimbabwe has a lot to do with the reproduction of power of the ruling ZANU-PF political elites. Poverty in Zimbabwe emanates from lack of access by the poor majority to resources and other material means of life. The theoretical perspective is that government’s decisions on who gets land leads to poverty as the vulnerable groups and less politically connected are not always prioritized for access to land. The research paradigm used is the sustainable livelihoods approach, which is influenced by qualitative methodology. It emphasizes the complexity of rural class structures and the contingency of individual agency. This approach has, at its center, the individual or individual households, and tries to understand how each household derives its livelihood. The theory of justice is also partially used to inform the assessment of the social character of land reform beneficiaries, in relation to grievances, the procedure of the reform, the social organization of beneficiaries, and the intended impact of the reform. Because of the economic and political environment in which the study was done, simple random sampling was used to select respondents for discussions and interviews. This approach was justified because it gave each unit an equal chance of being chosen. But the study is based, on the overall; on a case study method hence the findings may have limited generalization to contexts outside Mashonaland East. The narrative of the Zimbabwean state is that the land reform programme met its targets. Resettlement benefited a broad set of people. However empirical evidence examined during the research shows that there was no significant reduction in rural poverty levels, beneficiary selection was not done in a just, fair and transparent manner and productivity was generally low. The thesis argues that the land reform programme in Zimbabwe is in a crisis characterized by a lack of transparency and presided over by a state that is itself unclear about the redistribution strategy that it wants to pursue. There is an ambiguous implementation plan as well as inadequate capacity enhancing policy parameters that are vital to enable a fair and objective evaluation of the whole programme.