The Herald (Harare)

12 November 2013

Zimbabwe: Recalling A1 Offer Letters Ill-Timed

editorial

The recalling of offer letters issued to A1 farmers, while a step in the right direction in auditing land ownership, has come at the wrong time as farmers are seized with crop production matters. Getting the new land ownership document involves travelling to the offices of the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement and obviously this means being away from the land at a critical time farmers should be busy with operations.

We have no problem at all with the recalling of the offer letters and we understand what the Ministry is seeking to achieve.

While the exercise will benefit the ministry by enriching its database, it will also protect the farmers from being moved off the land by corrupt lands officers as they will now be expected to take personal and permanent residence on the allocated land.

The ministry also made it clear that no one will lose or be removed from the land and that should be good news to the farmers and it should be the reason why they must support the exercise.

It is only the timing that we are worried with.

We would have expected the exercise to have been done at any other time other than now when farmers are busy tilling the land, mobilising inputs, such as seed, chemicals and fertiliser. They spend much of their time preparing to farm and being productive.

Dividing their time between sorting out the offer letters and land preparation can be a big problem and naturally it is production that suffers at the end of the day.

We are not sure if lands officers will issue out the new offer letters on farms and through farm visits and if it is the case then there would minimal disturbance to farming operations.

In farming, timing is of essence and farmers who fail to adhere to planting times always produce poor yields, which translates to low production. Let the A1 farmers be given to time to prepare for the season without worrying too much about having to go and queue at the Ministry of Lands offices to get new offer letters.

Indeed the new land ownership document is important, there is no argument on that but our concern is only on the timing of the exercise.

It is a fact that long queues will form at the lands offices as farmers rush to regularise their offer letters and such stampede can easily lead to farmers spending long hours waiting to be given the document, time which they could have spent working on the land or doing any work associated with production.

We thus want to urge officials at the Ministry of Lands, who will be involved in the exercise, to work flat out to ensure farmers do not spend long hours and days to get the new offer letters.

It would be a big loss of productive time to have farmers visiting the lands offices for two or more days when they should be at the farm.

It is our hope that the exercise would be done with little or no hitches so that farmers can get on with the business of farming.

Farmers should spend more time scratching heads on inputs mobilisation than queuing at ministry offices to get the new land ownership document, however important it is.

Having said this we, however, applaud the ministry for the decision on the new detailed offer letters and hope that once everything is said and done, farmers will be able to carrying with production and turn the vast tracts of land into greenbelts.

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