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Arda a proven failure

Augustine Mukaro/Blessing Zulu

PLANS by government to take over Kondozi

farm through the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) are surprising given the parastatal’s record of failure on its own estates.

Arda has run down over 20 estates plus donor and government-funded development projects it has been implementing throughout the country since Independence. It has acquired more farms under the land reform programme.

Agriculture minister and former Arda boss Joseph Made led the invasion of the 224-hectare Kondozi farm in Odzi saying ownership of the farm had been transferred to Arda. The farm has an annual turn over of US$15 million.

Analysts view the violent seizure of Kondozi farm, owned and run by Edwin Moyo, proves correct the Ibgo adage that “If a leopard wants to eat its young, it will first accuse them of smelling like goats.”

Moyo has been dismissed as an Uncle Tom fronting for Piet de Klerk, the previous owner of the farm. Moyo maintains that the project is viable and has generated employment.

“Under my guidance, financial and marketing expertise, the venture in Odzi has grown massively to the extent that it now employs over 5 000 people in various occupations including middle and upper management,” said Moyo. “My principal focus remains the generation of foreign currency, the creation of jobs, poverty alleviation, dispensing of health care and black empowerment,” Moyo said.

He added: “The Odzi project has an extensive out-grower base including A1 and A2 new farmers. The entire group employs in excess of 16 000 people, making it possibly the single largest employer in Zimbabwe. I would estimate that approximately 150 000 people depend on the group for an income,” he said.

The same fate has befallen MDC MP Roy Bennett’s farm in Chimanimani. The government has ignored High Court rulings and magistrates’ orders compelling it to evict settlers on Bennett’s Charleswood farm.

The decision to invade the two farms is driven more by political motives than by economic need. President Robert Mugabe has made it abundantly clear that Bennett and De Klerk don’t deserve to own land in Zimbabwe. While addressing party supporters at Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme in Nyanga last year, Mugabe accused the two of sabotage.

“These Bennetts and the De Klerks are not deserving cases in regards to allocation of land because they are destabilising our society,” Mugabe was quoted as saying on June 12 last year.

“They are for illegality; they are supporting a party in its programme of pursuing an illegal course to power. All those who are working in this illegal way, in this manner of destablising our society, do not deserve a portion of our land at all. If they have it, if they have that land, that land will be taken from them and be given to more loyal citizens, so I don’t want to hear that there is a Bennett, that there is a de Klerk who continues to destablise our well-being, they must go from here.”

In the case of Bennett, Export Processing Zone chief executive officer Walter Chidhakwa told the Zimbabwe Independent that the government had ignored their concerns.

“We wrote to the Ministry of Industry recommending that the farm be delisted but we have not received any response since last year,” said Chidhakwa.

In stark contrast to the efficiently run Kondozi farm, Movement for Democratic Change agriculture spokesman Renson Gasela says Arda’s debts run into billion of dollars.

“Arda has been making huge losses over the years,” said Gasela.

“By the end of 2000 they had a debt of over $800 million from their farming operations. They have survived on taxpayers’ funds. If it was an individual entity it would have collapsed long back,” he said. 

Since 2000, Arda is understood to have claimed more than 10 former commercial farms throughout the country with the latest being Kondozi. In all instances the parastatal has barred the evicted owners from removing their equipment.

Gasela said Arda had run down many once vibrant estates dotted across the country.

“Poor management has seen Arda failing to run huge estates such as  Chisumbanje, Middle Sabi, Muzarabani, Sanyati, Kezi and Tjotsholo,” said Gasela.

He said Arda, formed in the colonial era as the Tribal Trust Land Development Corporation to spearhead development projects in rural areas, only started to go down after Independence.

Highly placed sources in the parastatal said the financially troubled Arda had drastically scaled down its involvement or abandoned totally rural development projects started by its predecessor.

Arda was once involved in projects such as the Mashonaland East Fruit & Vegetable Development Project, Manicaland Smallholder Coffee and Fruit Project, Livestock Development Projects, the Land Use Projects Development Programme for Communal Areas in Kariba District (Kanyati and Gastshe Gatshe Land Use Project and Omay Land Use Project) and Irrigation Development Projects of the Dande Smallholder Irrigation Development Project.

Sources said most these projects had all but collapsed during Made’s tenure as the Arda boss. The situation was exacerbated by the pulling-out of donors from all government-related projects at the inception of the land reform programme in 2000.

The main objective of the horticultural project was to strengthen the production and marketing capabilities of the producers in the communal areas of Mashonaland East province. Financing was geared at extension, providing transport, establishing marketing networks, and institutional strengthening through training of farmers. Before 2000 the annual volume of produce transported to major markets was over 10 000 tons. The project also embarked on an export programme of mangetout peas and baby corn. The project was funded by the European Union. The project is now a white elephant with Arda failing to competitively pay workers and outgrowers resulting in an exodus. 

In Manicaland, Arda had set up fruit and coffee projects to increase household incomes through smallholder commercial production and the marketing of coffee and fruit in the Honde Valley and Rusitu Valley respectively. The project transformed a number of backyard orchards into commercial orchards. By the time the project was handed over to the farmers in 1996, more than 9 000 tons of fruit such as banana, citrus, pineapple, avocado, and more than 300 tons of green coffee were being marketed. The European Union funded the project. As of now all the gains have since disappeared with Arda failing to market and transport the produce on behalf of the farmers. The out-growers who have survived have since dumped Arda for other horticultural firms to market their products.

In Matabeleland and Kariba, Arda, financed by EU and government had introduced Livestock Development Projects Model D, and Land Use Projects Development Programme for Communal Areas respectively.

 Some ranches covering 10 000 hectares in Tuli and 57 000 hectares in Dodieburn/Manyolo were developed with paddock, game fencing and water facilities. The ranches were used for relief grazing of cattle from the participating areas. Village paddocks and other infrastructure for livestock were put up in the participating communal areas to enable rotational grazing in the ranches and the villages. Improved breeds were also introduced and farmers have been getting good prices for their cattle.

People from the surrounding community have since invaded the farms and brought down the fencing and now Arda doesn’t have the money to repair them.

 In Kariba the programme was preceded by the eradication of tsetse fly in the area through the Regional Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Control Programme but that has since stopped.

Arda has virtually abandoned the Integrated Rural Development Programme which was aimed at establishing viable production and support systems in the below-average rainfall areas of Gutu and Zaka Districs in Masvingo Province. The programme was funded by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation. 

The major components were agricultural projects that converted land use, agroforestry, crop development, and livestock development, including small livestock, agro-services development that covered marketing, credit, group savings, and input supply, and development of infrastructure that covered rural sanitation and rural water supply.

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