- Note - Finally, a success story in Africa - one that
boggles the mind, and as usual, for Africa, it comes from whites. This
story demonstrates the tremendous knowledge and skills which white commercial
farmers have over the black peasant farmers. Take note in this story that
100 white farmers, starting from scratch, in Zambia, produced 70% of Zambia's
maize crop in one year. They outperformed, 150,000 black peasants. These
farmers are now going to farm with tobacco as well - which will bring in
stacks of money. I wish them well, and hope the Zambian government stands
by its promises. This should show, clearly, what sort of skills whites
in Africa possess, and it demonstrates in a small microcosm, how whites
originally built up Africa because of their knowledge and skills and how
crucial they are. It did NOT require the UN, it did not require BILLIONS
of US Dollars, all it took were 100 skilled families, bringing their knowledge
and capital, and look at what they carved out in a single year. But can
blacks deal with the success of whites? Or will jealousy always remain
the main driving thought in their minds? Let's see.
- LUSAKA, Zambia - Exiled white
Zimbabwean farmers have helped neighbouring Zambia break a crippling food
shortage that saw millions rely on food aid last season.
- The roughly 100 Zimbabwean exile families have settled
in central Zambia's fertile maize-growing district of Mkushi, where even
critics concede they have revolutionised commercial agriculture by introducing
hi-tech commercial farming techniques through partnerships with local landowners.
- They have been so successful that Zambia's Investment
Centre (ZIC) has just issued certificates to 31 Zimbabweans authorising
them to begin commercial farming in their own name and on their own newly
acquired land, while Zambia's national government intends luring even more
disillusioned Zimbabwean farmers across the border - regardless of possible
discomfort in relations between Lusaka and Harare.
- Saw them as the enemy
- "People initially saw them as the enemy, seeking
refuge in Zambia. Because they were white, people were also scared that
the history of racism would resurface. Even people in government thought
there should be solidarity (with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe), and
we should refuse them (entry)," says Zambian deputy agriculture minister
- "But we saw them as potential investors who could
improve our food security.
- "We have now been vindicated."
- Forced off their farms
- The exiles fled to Zambia after being forced off their
properties in Zimbabwe during the fast-track land reform programme that
began in 2000. The Zimbabweans currently either rent land for farming from
the locals, or go into partnership with owners who do not have the capacity
to till huge tracts of land.
- "It's farming that we know and do best. So we just
want to see where the land lies, before we apply for permits and licenses
and buy land," explains one of the migrants, Jimmy Stewart.
- The official support for the Zimbabweans forms part of
a wider multi-pronged strategy to revive Zambia's agricultural sector,
which is still reeling from the effects of two successive droughts, with
a shortfall of 635 000 tons of grain last year.
- As a result, food prices rocketed and 2.9 million people
were in need of assistance.
- "This season we were determined to prioritise agriculture
with timely input distribution," says agriculture minister Mundia
- The government continues to support more than 150 000
local farmers with subsidised maize seed and fertiliser. It has also specified
that commercial farmers, both local and foreign, put at least 10% of their
acreage into maize production to ensure Zambia doesn't suffer another grain
- There is no official figure indicating exactly how much
maize Zimbabwean farmers produced last year, but some reports indicate
that they grew over 70% of Zambia's 2003 maize crop.
- ZIC notes in its end-of-year report that all the Zimbabwean
farmers awarded licenses had also started producing tobacco and wheat.
"They have what it takes to undertake various farming enterprises
and we would like more farmers of the calibre of Zimbabwean farmers to
invest in agriculture," the investment body said.
- While acknowledging the farming prowess of the Zimbabweans,
local farmers complain they had an unfair advantage.
- 'I am happy, but...'
- "I do not want to sound petulant - I am happy that
we have a bumper harvest and do not need food aid. But I feel a little
peeved because we (local) farmers have been made to look incompetent. There
are reasons the Zimbabweans had such a good crop," says Zambian farmer
- Zimbabwean farmers had collateral for loans from local
and international financial institutions, Stephenson points out, while
some also brought equipment and machinery with them. This gave them a "leg
up" when they arrived in Zambia.
- Well-heeled business people
- "We are not talking refugees here. We are talking
well-heeled business people," stresses Stephenson.
- The Standard Chartered Bank of Zambia, for example, gave
loans to more than 20 Zimbabwean farmers who had settled in Zambia, to
acquire existing farms or buy land. The bank's executive director of finance,
Brighton Ngoma, says his institution had set up an agricultural unit to
help boost the sector. The money being lent out was from the European Investment
Bank and from Standard Chartered itself.
- Local farmers were also supposed to have benefited from
the funds, but discussions about this matter are still underway with the
Zambia National Farmers Union.
- Reduce inflation "It's not that we do not have confidence
in the local farmers. We need to make sure that we protect our investment
and also attain our objective to increase agricultural production. Already
we are seeing the benefits of our lending to Zimbabwean farmers, because
the good harvest has helped reduce inflation as well as stabilise the foreign
exchange," said Ngoma.
- Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa recently announced that
government would revitalise farming through agricultural financing, tax
exemptions for imported equipment and low power tariffs. The government
also wants to revive co-operative banks that lend money to farmers at favourable
rates, and national marketing boards to buy their crops.
- Stewart, who has a farm leased from a local resident,
is reluctant to criticise existing agricultural policies. But he agreed
that it was difficult to make commercial farming viable in Zambia. He cited
high electricity tariffs, duties on equipment and the lack of a good lending
and marketing policy.
- "Basically we came equipped with our own money,
some equipment and good relations with international banks and donors.
So we are not affected by those problems."
- Abundant land and water
- On the positive side, says Stewart, there is a steady
and reliable supply of manual labour, abundant land and water resources.
Almost half of Zambian land is suitable for various types of crops.
- Government appears to be keeping an eye on the Zimbabweans.
- "Minister Sikatana visited us here, I think, just
to make sure we were doing what we said we would do, and was quite happy
with our output. So for the time being, things are looking good,"
- Kabaghe is confident that more Zimbabwean farmers will
come when they realise Zambia welcomes investors, and that it does not
have the land-ownership problems that have beset other countries in the
- Meanwhile Zimbabwe is experiencing a debilitating food
shortage for the second year running - something that analysts have ascribed
to drought, and the drop in food production caused by the land distribution
programme. More than half the country's population will require emergency
food aid this year, according to the World Food Programme. - Inter Press