From the vantage point of his house on the slopes of a mountain in Mhangura, in northern Zimbabwe, Malcom Rusere surveys a healthy sprouting crop of maize and soya beans on his 42-hectare plot below. "Not an inch of the farm is unplanted except where we are standing, and I expect a bumper harvest if the rains are good this season," he says, with a broad smile on his face, and that of his wife, Vera, and their two children, Tendai and Martin. Rusere, a bank accountant, is one of nearly 500,000 black Zimbabweans who have been resettled on thousands of farms in President Mugabe's controversial land reform programme. The resettlement programme has reached its climax, after two years of troubled implementation in which the government has faced fierce resistance from white farmers and powerful Western countries led by Britain, The EU and USA have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, but Mugabe has pressed ahead nonetheless, arguing that land reform would bring sustainable economic development, and ensure the country's fu ture social and political stability. Now, Rusere and other beneficiaries of land reform appear to vindicate Mugabe's stand. Hundreds of thousands have moved onto their new plots countrywide.
"I took leave for a month when the farming season began in November to personally supervise tillage and planting, and now every weekend I am here to see what is going on. I enjoy it, and my children can't wait for Saturday and Sunday to come to the farm." said Rusere, with both Tendai and Martin nodding in agreement. "I think black Zimbabweans are natural farmers, and universally love to work the land."
Indeed, when the government invited applications for resettlement in 2001, there were more prospective black farmers than the land initially available, forcing the authorities to rake over more white-owned farms and to cut down on the size of the plots to accommodate as many applicants as possible.
Rusere is already complaining his plot is small for the long-range farming plans he has drawn up, which include diversifying into livestock production and horticulture.
In part, the new farmers have been spurred on by the soft "introductory" financing schemes the government has put in place, including farming inputs such as seed and fertiliser, and nearly Z$100 billion in state-guaranteed loans. "Finalisation of the land acquisition allows us to focus on assisting new farmers to productively utilise the land. This calls for adequate financial and technical support...