Cablegate: Tough Going for New Farmers

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E. O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Tough Going for New Farmers

Sensitive but unclassified.

1. (SBU) Summary: In an initial call on the Ambassador,
five Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU) officials
spelled out the hurdles they confront merging 12,000 land
reform beneficiaries with their smaller pre-land reform
membership. They also showed a willingness to work with a
broader range of groups in the farming sector to
stimulate debate on critical land policy issues. End

2. (SBU) In introducing his organization, President
Davison Mugabe (no relation to Robert) recounted that
many black commercial farmers broke away from the mostly-
white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) in 1990 and founded
the ICFU. The ICFU remained smaller than the CFU until
200, when the GOZ began driving white farmers from their
land under fast-track land reform. The organization now
claims an odd mix of 300-400 serious, mostly black
commercial farmers who purchased their land, and 12,000
new members who recently took over or received land under
the GOZ's so-called "fast track" land reform.

3. (SBU) The ICFU officials identified the many obstacles
the country would have to surmount to get agriculture
back to previous levels of productivity. We summarize

- Finance. ICFU officials said they expected the GOZ to
issue 99-year leases in the near future, but they did not
know whether the leases would be transferable or could
serve as collateral for loans.
- Machinery. Tractors for tillage of land have been
reduced from 44,000, pre-land reform, to 9,000, according
to the ICFU officials. Irrigation units belonging to
dispossessed farmers are in disrepair, often through
vandalism or misuse.
- Training. The ICFU officials said they lack resources
to provide training to inexperienced new farmers. In the
meantime, they have asked all large-scale ICFU-affiliated
farmers to mentor at least five new farmers. In
subsequent discussion, they evinced a willingness to work
with the CFU on joint training projects.
- Organization. The officials admitted their offices and
other physical facilities are inadequate for an
organization of 12,000 farmers. They admitted their
largely unproductive new members contribute nearly
nothing in dues.
- Environmental Management. They complained that new
farmers are overtaxing resources on formerly white-run
farms by allowing cows to overgraze and by cutting down
too many trees for quick sale as firewood.
- Infrastructure. In oparceling out land to new farmers,
the GOZ has frequently divided one large farm into five
or ten smaller units, without putting any mechanism in
place to collectively manage assets. A new farmer
allotted a plot with water or electricity resources is
not required to share with his new neighbors, according
to the ICFU representatives.
- Market Conditions. The ICFU farmers said GOZ policies
discourage agricultural output, by, for example,
underpaying for grain and tobacco. ICFU Vice-President
Mudzikisi noted that he has shifted production on his
farm from maize to paprika and sorghum, since the GOZ
does not control the prices of these crops.

4. (SBU) Comment: We were encouraged that the ICFU
President restated his willingness to engage in formal
talks, and even a merger, with the CFU. Tapping into the
CFU's still excellent resource base might be the only way
for the ICFU to expand services to new farmers. As
former dues-paying CFU members, ICFU members we talked to
feel they should be able to access the CFU's superior
facilities, technical expertise, training and
international contacts. "We paid for it," snapped Wilson
Nyabonda, one of Zimbabwe's largest tobacco farmers. At
the same time, merging with the predominantly black ICFU
might be the best way for the mostly-white CFU to survive
in the new Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, our contacts with
the CFU suggest that they have not yet adjusted to this

5. (SBU) No one expects a large influx of donor funds for
agricultural recovery at this time. With or without
donor funds, it is impossible to restore output to pre-
land reform levels even in the medium term, absent a
dramatic GOZ policy shift away from centralized control
and towards restoration of the rule of law. In the short-
term, however, coordination among the various farming
unions to stimulate debate on what policies are necessary
to restore agricultural productivity could set the stage
for future progress. Equally important, such
coordination and dialogue on land policy, based on shared
economic interests, would cut across partisan lines and
begin to limit Mugabe's populist-inspired control of the
land issue. End comment.


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