Now she regrets invading the farm

Karoi – Zimbabwe's newly resettled black farmers say they have been caught off guard this year as government withdrew its support due to lack of funds to support them.

Sarudzai Makaka, a 56 year old widow from Karoi, regrets invading the farm she is now staying at. She said, she wished she had not left her rural home to settle at the farm. At her rural home, she used to get free seed handouts. ”If only I had remained at the communal farms, I could have benefited from these handouts by Non-Government Organisations,” she said. 

Since the chaotic land invasions by war veterans of President Robert Mugabe’s government, the black farmers who took over benefited from free fuel, seed, tractors among other many inputs. However the inputs, in most cases, were never used for the real purpose but were diverted to the black market where they were sold for a profit.

This year the new inclusive government has withdrawn the support, saying government is broke as it needs to raise nearly US$ 10 billion to resuscitate its ailing economy, which was damaged in the last decade during a political crisis in the country.

Makaka has a 250 hectare plot allocated to her late husband during the land invasions. She has no cattle and other assets worth for a commercial farmer. Her husband, a war veteran who led farm invasions passed away three years ago.

Makaka battles to restrain her tears saying, ”This farming season has caught us off-guard …I do not have any maize seed to plant. I have no hope of getting the seed soon as rains have already started. My application for a loan has been rejected by the bank."

"Before my husband passed away, we could get everything from seed maize, fertiliser and chemicals in abundance. It was easy then, but now things have taken a new twist” she says. ”I do not see hope that we will get inputs."

Another resettled farmer at Foliot farm about 50kilometres south of Karoi town, Jairosi Mukarati, believes they are being sidelined by NGOs because they get assistance from government.

NGO’s such as the UN’s Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has teamed up with others to provide free seed and other inputs to rural farmers but not commercial farmers. Even government has said it will assist communal farmers. Farmers that occupy pieces of land measuring between 20 and 400 hectares are regarded as commercial farmers or A2 farmers.

Makaka and others have been spending hours queueing at a Karoi bank with the hope of trying to secure a loan application for this farming season. But the banks have been rejecting many applications, demanding collateral, which many of the new farmers do not have.

A bank worker from one of the banks in Karoi said few people had their loan applications approved this season. ”We have had few loan applications for farmers approved as not all farmers meet requirements… Banks are not just approving loans but are trying to take farming as a business enterprise that must be properly managed,”said a bank worker.

Another bank source said only 150 farmers had their applications approved from nearly 2000 applications at the branch.

For many resettled farmers around Karoi farming town here, situated about 204 north-west of Harare and at Mantuzuma farm in particular, there is no hope of getting free seed. Farmers in the area who have cattle are auctioning them in exchange for seed.

Makaka looks after four children and eight grandchildren.  Her eldest son, Ranganai aged 25 years is married and has three siblings.

However a Tengwe based Agriculture Extension Officer [AREX] official says not so many farmers deserve the larger plots they got.  ” There is great need of land re-distribution among the so-called A2 farmers as few are capable.

”We are expecting at least a quarter of tobacco production this season as few farmers managed to plant and without free inputs from Government, maize production will be low than expected. "

However farm invasions continue unabated in Zimbabwe with the new government turning a blind eye. Some of the white commercial farmers driven out of their farms have resettled in other African countries and recently media reports said some of them had successfully boosted Nigeria’s  agricultural sector.