The History of Land and Youth Participation in Agribusiness in Zimbabwe

Introduction

Despite the demise of the Zimbabwean economy in the past two decades, the prospects of agriculture towards reviving the economy remain one of the viable alternatives currently present for Zimbabwe.

With youth population constantly increasing, while employment opportunities diminish, agriculture is one of the underexplored avenues towards which youth unemployment and underemployment can be confronted. It is undeniable that young people everywhere, are agents of change and a source of the much needed urgency, skill, energy and innovativeness towards meeting the 21st century needs and demands and bringing the much needed developmental solutions that Zimbabwe desperately need.

The youth have impacted less in the development of the agricultural sector despite their versatility as a dominant group. Their contribution to the national development, eradication of poverty, creation of jobs and the assurance of food security is still minimal. Attracting youth to and retaining them in the agriculture sector remains a global challenge. Many developing countries, such as Zimbabwe, are faced with the challenge of ensuring food security for their growing populations amidst a decline in youth engagement in agriculture (Mukembo, 2013). Despite the much visible statistical evidence towards young people’s increasing proportion of the African population, with around 70 percent of the continent’s total population currently under the age of 30, evidence suggests many young people are choosing not to pursue livelihoods in the agriculture sector, especially as farmers, which may have negative implications for national and international efforts to drive economic growth through investments in agriculture (Smith, 2010). Youths have been noted for their unique capabilities and they could constitute a formidable force in agricultural production activities in any nation. This paper thus seeks to examine the potential that young people have in contributing towards the development of the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe analysing factors that can encourage youth participation in agribusiness towards securing their sustainable livelihoods and creating job opportunities in Zimbabwe.

 

The history of Land and Agriculture in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe went into a liberation struggle with the then Rhodesian government and one of the reasons why they waged that war was to settle not only the racial segregation of black people but also the distribution of key resources among them land. The land question remained and still remains a key political and economic question that cut across all generations. Following closely on the Zimbabwean policy lane, the First Five-Year National Development Plan 1986-90 set new redistribution targets in the order of 15,000 families per year during the plan period (Cliffe, 1988). However (Moyo, 1989) reports that, by the beginning of 1989, a post-independence total of only 51,000 families had been resettled, an increase of 16,000 over the figure apparently given in 1985. This is the case even though the 1986 Land Aquisition Bill "widened the government's options by giving the state first refusal on all land sales, and by defining what constituted 'underutilised' land and indicating some procedures for compulsory acquiring it" (Cliffe, 1988). Land thus remains a scarce resource for the marginalised particularly the youth. With young people increasingly growing in population, they haven’t been full beneficiaries of the land distribution.

In addition to that, one of the major reasons why the land question remains an unanswered question to many, especially youth is the manner in which the redistribution was done early independence as well as the 90s and early 2000 land distribution crises which saw the booting out of former white farmers who occupied the vast farming areas. Zimbabweans have mixed feelings with the government’s move then, with the impact being not so rosy for former farm workers, industrial workers and the sons and daughters of these various group-who happen to be the current crop of the youth generation.

The implications of Land Reform on Youth Participation in Agriculture

The land reform program in the beginning of the new millennium brought about a new perspective towards agriculture and the whole system of land ownership. These changes in the structure of the agriculture sector as a result of the land reform programme had far reaching implications on the agricultural employment of youths. The “The land is ours” mantra has in most cases worked in favour of the politically well-connected members of society, ZANU PF to be specific. What it means is that, up to now, the distribution of land has been viewed by many young people as a political move more than an empowerment move, an attitude that has been compromising youth participation in agriculture as a means and source of livelihood and the development of the economy and their communities.

Apart from the effects on agribusiness, the land reform program also had implications on the growth and performance of the manufacturing and retail industries, whose sustenance sorely depended on agricultural role materials and international markets. With the industries largely dominated by the white minority, the developments saw the withdrawal and closure of industries, mines and retail shops coupled with a shrinking international market. As clearly enunciated by (Matondi, 2012) the land reform programme captured international attention and imagination, while in Zimbabwe itself it radically altered people’s lives and livelihoods, and at the same time reawakened people’s memories of the past. Therefore, the land reform programme was not simply about land, but also about people, especially the farmers and the communities in which they lived, originated from and settled in. It was also about the institutions they interacted with on multiple levels, and with whom they intersected at different times as the programme was speedily implemented. Events since 2000 have thus changed the agrarian landscape in Zimbabwe, with International investment shrinking, agricultural exports decreasing and international relations souring particularly with Western Countries (America, Canada, Australia, Britain etc.). The mass exodus of potential investors in Zimbabwe not only has had implications on the performance of the agricultural sector but has also resulted in the closure of multiple companies, whose effects are still ravaging Zimbabweans to date.

However, a number of researchers have different viewpoints as far as the land reform and agriculture in Zimbabwe is concerned with (Chitiyo & Duram, 2017) tracking back in history by arguing that the year 2000 land reform policy significantly increased the number of smallholder farmers transforming the country to “a country of smallholder farmers” thereby enabling once marginalized smallholder farmers to participate in mainstream markets and become “the food producers for the country”. This is another dimension to the land ownership and agricultural narrative that presents the positive outcome of the programme in empowering the long marginalised black communities. What this narrative ignores are the powers of the market, the competence of these small holders’ farmers, in most cases their limited skills to produce and match the standards of the global market and the industrial demand for raw materials. This level of incompetence as demonstrated by the demise of the agricultural sector pose as a negation and demotivates youth in particular into venturing in agribusiness.

To the younger generation, the political and social economic implications of the land reform program and proceeds from the agricultural sector have therefore set a bad precedence in luring young people towards considering agriculture as a career and way of contribution to economic and social development of the nation.

Why Agriculture is Important for today’s Youth

Young people play an important role in the political, economic and social development of any country. Their immense contribution in the agricultural sector can help increase food security, improve nutrition and end poverty as well as boost economic growth, yet around the world many young people do not see a future for themselves in agriculture or rural areas.

With unemployment savaging the current young generation, little attention is given towards the opportunity at which natural resources particularly land can offer as far as sustainability and employment opportunities are concerned.

Global population is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, with youth in the same age range accounting for about 14 percent of this total. Bill Reese in an article, ‘Why Agriculture Can Be a Solution for Youth Unemployment in Africa’ [1] highlighted that with almost 200 million youth ages 15-24, the continent has the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. Yet the vast majority of Africa’s young people live in poverty and struggle to find employment- a fact that could jeopardize recent progress and potential.

Recommendations and Conclusion

With 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. Zimbabwe, whose economy was traditionally hinged upon agriculture, still have the potential to revive, this time linking the innovative energies of the dominant youth population with the availability of vast arable

 

Need for Agricultural education

It is critical to acknowledge the fact that to bring youth into the mainstream of agricultural development, it is the necessity to review and improve training in agriculture. According to the survey agricultural education was facing many challenges, arising from the changes in the agricultural structure, the increase in the number of farmers requiring farming knowledge, skills, attitude change, technical advice and information against limiting capacity in terms of numbers, geographical distribution or location of agricultural colleges, student enrolment capacities, the numbers of experienced trainers, training equipment, materials and structure of courses offered and exit qualifications (Chidoko & Zhou, 2012) The potential of the agricultural sector in serving as a source of livelihood and a career for the majority of young people is an avenue through which governments and the private sector in Africa and particularly Zimbabwe have been short-changing. It is thus key to educate young people on the career opportunities associated with agriculture and facilitate the space through which they can experience the benefit of participating at the same time contributing meaningfully to the development of their communities in a properly structured strategic pattern and procedures.

Reshaping the Agricultural narrative

For the majority of youth, agriculture has been viewed as a job for the poor and downtrodden despite its huge potential in returns. The motivation by many young people is driven by their political experiences particularly after the land reform program. With an education policy that favoured academic excellence over practical competence, society is still evolving towards investing in the growth and commercialization of what was once subsistence farming in many communities. The social status of the farmer therefore is parallel to that of any educated technocrat, provided he starts believing so himself/herself. The youth have the wherewithal to make it a profitable venture by using the right technology and knowledge.

Policy Revisit

The current agricultural policy does not favour the weak. Young people require enough protection from different dimensions. Market exploitation, financial exclusion, inadequate information to properly engage and participate in agriculture is somehow limited in Zimbabwe. The relationship between relevant education, human capital, capital investment and constant policy framework all work simultaneously in the development and growth of competitive agriculture meaningful to the eyes of many and most importantly the youth.

The future of young people does not lie in Europe or Asia but in the vast and arable land that Zimbabwe boasts of. Political willingness to impartially support young people across the nation through the provision of land and agricultural guidance can potentially transform the lives of many idle youth. This plight becomes more realistic and achievable if young people are given the knowledge, skill and information that prepare them to generate a positive mind-set towards moving Zimbabwe forward. [2]

 

Bibliography

Chidoko, C., & Zhou, S. (2012). IMPACT OF AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT ON YOUTH EMPLOYMENT. Russian Journal of Agricultural and Socio-Economic Sciences, No. 11 (11) / 2012 .

Chitiyo, P. T., & Duram, L. (2017). Alternative Agriculture Characteristics in Zimbabwe: Experts Views. Journal of Geography and Earth Sciences, 41-49.

Cliffe, L. (1988). "Zimbabwe's Agricultural 'Success' and Food Security in Southern Africa". Review of African Political Economy, 4-25.

Matondi, P. B. (2012). Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform. London: Zed Books Ltd.

Moyo, S. (1989). "Agriculture Employment Expansion: Smallholder Land and Labour Capacity Growth",. Harare: ILO, mimeo.

Mukembo, S. C. (2013). The views of young farmers clubs members on their clubs' activities, their career interests, and their intentions to pursue agriculture-related career preparation at the post-secondary level.

Smith, L. (2010). Future Farmers: Youth Aspirations, Expectations and Life Choices. Future of Agricultures

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