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The current global food shortages should enable third world economic planners to revisit land ownership models currently at work with the view of informing economic strategy and planning rather than waste time and effort by focusing debate on Euro-centric notions that obbese Americans should diet themselves to reduce food consumption and save more for Africa. The present scenario represents both danger and an opportunity for Africa.
Africa cannot afford to endure food shortages given its geographic endowment underpinned by fertile lands and a climate suitable for crop production. Food security is critical because of its link to poverty, health and sustainable development.
The colonial system despite practicing a dual agrarian system informed by a racial apartheid successfully managed to create wealth and a capitalist system which benefited its subjects. The miracle of this dictatorship was based on a viable land tenure system which was based on the exclusive enjoyment of property rights by the minority minus the black majority. This helped to power the dictatorship by building a vibrant productive and financial structure as a pillar of the colonial system.
At the core of the property rights doctrine practiced by the colonial system was a serious and committed discrimination against the black majority, a system of direct ownership of land based on title deeds, a court process that recognized and resolved land based disputes and the ability for the land to be tradable as a market commodity. This allowed the colonial system population to look beyond subsistence agriculture and be more commercially oriented in production. This conferred upon the farming sector the ability to engage in more environmentally sound production whilst the farmers were to a larger extent able to source local and offshore funding.
Farmers were assured of a going concern a critical success factor for any successful venture. It allowed investors to operate and develop their farming enterprises without fear of the state intervening by reallocating or repossessing their land holdings.
Land reform provides Zimbabwe with an opportunity to counter the food shortages and benefit from the spin-offs of high global food prices given that we are currently a net importer of food. It is only in Zimbabwe were vast lands are allotted a net value of zero. We need a paradigm shift and look beyond the communal system of land ownerships and embrace a system of title deeds as a final nail to the constraining land tenure system.
This will allow more agri-business players worried about risk management to take part in agricultural development since it has been proved beyond doubt that government lacks the strategic capacity to carryout a successful land reform programme. This will create an agro-based industrialization drive by linking the food industry and the farmers into a competitive value chain.
Because of policy bankruptcy the Zimbabwean authorities have been reluctant and slow in recognizing that the colonial state was powered by strict observance of property rights, this consequently makes the constitutional amendment number 18 irrelevant -which prohibits courts from hearing challenges on land related matters. The current 99 years lease is not only historically misplaced but a mockery to historically disadvantaged Zimbabwean farmers.
The horizon of ownership is limited to just over three generations yet we have classic examples of powerful and successful multinational corporations like Barclays bank whose life spanned centuries. For us to realize the African dream of owning our destiny and creating wealth for our people we need to look beyond three generations and create value for our selves by returning land back to its prime status of a tradable and transferable market commodity.
By Hillary Kundishora
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