Does land redistribution in southern Africa achieve poverty reduction and livelihood improvement objectives?

Votes : 436
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Welcome to the Livelihoods after land reform website

In southern Africa many agree that land reform is an essential component of efforts to reduce poverty and inequality, but despite important empirical studies there has to date been no systematic assessment of the poverty reduction and livelihood impacts of land reform in the region. This project aims to fill this data gap, developing appropriate and replicable methodologies for such an assessment.

The Institute for Poverty for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) of the School of Government at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, together with the Institute of Development Studies in the UK, the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia and partners in Zimbabwe, has been granted around R5.4 million to investigate the livelihood impacts of land reform in the Southern African region. Funds are provided over three years by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DfID).

Through case studies in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia, the project will explore to what extent land redistribution in southern Africa is achieving poverty reduction and livelihood improvement objectives. Specific objectives are to:
  1. Provide empirical data, in a systematic and comparable form, on livelihoods impacts and agrarian structure in post-land reform settings.
  2. Understand what conditions – including appropriate land transfer mechanisms, resettlement models, tenure arrangements and post-settlement support – are likely to result in poverty reduction following redistribution of land.
  3. Advance conceptual thinking about post-transfer livelihood options, interrogating what is meant by ‘viable’ land reform in the southern African context
  4. Develop replicable methodological approaches for assessing impacts at different scales – e.g. household, scheme/project, regional economy – for use as assessment and monitoring and evaluation tools.

In addition, the project aims to engage a range of end-users in government and other implementing agencies (NGOs, service providers, donors), as well as beneficiaries, in exploring the policy implications of research findings.

Livelihoods after Land Reform in Zimbabwe:
New Working Paper Series

Debate about Zimbabwe’s land reform has been plagued by a lack of empirical data on impacts and consequences. The land reform that has unfolded in Zimbabwe since 2000 has resulted in a major reconfiguration of land use and economy. But there is no single, simple story.

The Institute of Development Studies (at the University of Sussex, UK), the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS, University of the Western Cape, South Africa), the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS, Harare), the Centre for Applied Social Sciences Trust (CASS Trust, Harare) and the Ruzivo Trust (Harare) came together to support a small grant competition aimed at generating insights based on original and recent field research by young Zimbabwean scholars.

The aim was to bring together solid, empirical evidence from recent research in the field. There were over 70 applicants, and 15 small grants were offered. The result is a new Working Paper series of the DFID-ESRC funded Livelihoods after Land Reform in Southern Africa programme which can be found here.


FORTHCOMING BOOK - "Zimbabwe's Land Reform : Myths and Realities"


Scoones, I., Marongwe, N., Mavedzenge, B., Mahenehene, J., Murimbarimba, F. and Sukume, C.
(2010, forthcoming).
Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities. James Currey, Oxford/Weaver Press, Harare


Book: Zimbabwe's Land ReformFrom early 2000, headlines around the world reported the invasion of Zimbabwe’s largely white-owned commercial farms in dramatic terms. This was ‘Mugabe’s land grab’, with an ‘unruly’, ‘violent mob’ of war veterans looting and destroying property across the country. Zimbabwe, it was claimed, had been turned from ‘bread basket’ to ‘basket case’. Zimbabwe’s subsequent economic collapse and widespread food insecurity were attributed to the ‘chaotic’ land reform, where property and human rights were violated and successful commercial farming had been transformed into underutilised plots run by ‘political cronies’ with no knowledge or interest in farming.

But the story of Zimbabwe’s land reform is of course far more complex than the generalisations of the media headlines. A forthcoming book produced as part of the Livelihoods after Land Reform programme looks at the realities behind the headlines, and tries to tackle some of the oft-repeated myths about Zimbabwe’s land reform with a hard look at empirical data from one province – Masvingo – in the south and east of the country.

There is an enormous amount of confusion, misinformation and misunderstanding about what happened to whom, where and with what consequences over the last decade, and a more nuanced story urgently needs to be told. Misconceptions repeatedly arise because of a simple lack of solid, field-level data. This book aims to fill this gap by providing insights from 16 different sites and some 400 households, situated along a transect of contrasting agro-ecological conditions in Masvingo province.

In the last decade, there have been some major changes in the rural landscape of Zimbabwe, with a radical reconfiguration of land, production, economy and livelihoods. But the implications of this are often not clear. There have been benefits and opportunities as well as costs, challenges and pitfalls.

Why is this assessment important? It is important for Zimbabwe, as land remains – as it always has been – a highly emotive and political issue, and boosting production and livelihoods following land reform must be central to future policy efforts. For southern Africa more broadly, the spectre of land invasions destabilising an economy and the wider social and political system has sent shockwaves through the region. Zimbabwe’s experience is also suggestive of alternatives to an agricultural sector reliant on large-scale commercial farms, with a more equitably-distributed production system, rooted in small-scale production, highlighting the possibility of alternative rural development paths.

The empirical material presented in Zimbabwe’s Land Reform offers important insights, charting a way forward which challenges the myths generated by the stereotypical views presented in media and other commentaries of Zimbabwe’s recent history.



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