Govt spares productive farmers from farm downsizing programme

Govt spares productive farmers from farm downsizing programme

Harare (New Ziana) – The government will spare highly productive farms from the current farm downsizing programme as a reward for maximum land utilisation and productivity, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Government is currently undertaking a comprehensive land audit which seeks to determine land use patterns across the country and has set maximum farm sizes permissible in every farming region.

Farms in natural region one should not exceed 250 hectares, while those in natural region two the maximum farm size was 500 hectares.

Maximum farm sizes in natural regions three, four and five were 750 hectares, 1 500 hectares and 2 000 hectares respectively.

Agriculture, Lands, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Chief Air Marshall Perrance Shiri (Rtd) said government came up with the farm downsizing programme due to the overwhelming demand for land.

But, in carrying out the programme, he said, government was aware of the need to protect farmers who were adequately utilising their land despite having farms that exceeded the maximum sizes permissible in their regions.

“We are very much alive to the fact that there are some highly productive units which if disrupted could definitely not augur well for our economy. In such cases we may allow the farmer to continue utilising the piece of land which is larger than the maximum farm size, but it has to be understood that it is not a right but a privilege for someone to be allowed to continue utilising land which is above the maximum farm size,” he said.

“However, when it comes to issuing the 99 year leases, we will base them on the maximum farm sizes and where there is good cause to allow a farmer more land than the maximum farm size, the rest of the land or the remainder of the land shall be rented out to the farmer on a short term basis, it could be five, 20 or 30 years. Cognisant of the fact that there are a lot of people in need of land government can always allocate that rented land to any other citizen as when it sees it fit.”

Shiri said government was still engaging banks to ensure that the 99 year leases become bankable.

“We will not get tired of engaging the banks, it is unfortunate that they have been indicating their acceptance but when it comes to implementation they have been failing to do that,” he said.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet was briefed on the outcomes of the first phase of the land audit.

She said the first phase covered 18 646 land units, representing six percent of an estimated 300 000 total land units to be audited.

She said phase two of the audit was already underway and would cover 38 000 land units while phase three would cover 242 000 units.

“Arising from today’s presentation, key decisions were made including that the issuance of tenure documents will be expedited, that married beneficiaries will be given joint tenure documents to protect spouses on land ownership.

“That 255 abandoned land units and 112 vacant land units will be re-allocated to deserving applicants, that 24 farms under multiple farm ownerships will be withdrawn and re-allocated to deserving applicants,” she said.

“(A total of) 71 identified farms exceeding the maximum gazetted sizes will be downsized and measures are being put in place to safeguard production and allocation of land will be in line with gazetted policy quotas with respect to war veterans, women, youth and people living with disabilities.”

Meanwhile, Mutsvangwa said government was targeting winter maize production in the low lying areas of the country.

“Cabinet considered and approved the 2020 winter maize production programme, the programme is targeting to put 4 000 hectares under winter maize in Zimbabwe’s low lying areas of Masvingo, Matabeleland North and Mashonaland West,” she said.

“A cost benefit analysis of the programme reveals that it will result in substantial savings in comparison to importing the same amount of maize.”

She said other benefits of the programme included maximisation of land use and employment creation.
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