The Herald (Harare)

17 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Thousands Are 'Getting With the Programme', Why Not You?

There is a new group in town. Forget the dusty farmer shoes, corduroys, khakis and wide-brimmed hats that they used to be identified by. Back when we grew up, it was not hard to identify a farmer. Of course, it helped that in most cases, the farmer's skin colour was lighter than mine and he or she drove into town only to do banking and meet with others like him or her.

People of my skin colour, in most instances, accompanied him or her while seated at the back of a pick-up truck, at times with dogs and cats for company.

They stayed in there while the farmer ran errands or had a quick coffee with buddies. We knew even as little children that these were the farmers, or shall I say "commercial farmers".

At times the males would have a considerably younger wife of my complexion in tow. When I went to secondary school, I made friends with their children and heard a few stories about how they worked for everything they ate back at the farm.

We were intrigued by, but largely removed from what they were talking about.

Roll this to now and you have a new farmer in town.

This farmer could be your typical office executive type. However, each moment he or she is not busy with office duties, chances are they are on the phone giving instructions to the farm manager or relative who happens to be in charge at the farm.

Weekly or every couple of days they are in the middle of their farm, somewhere, trying to see what is going on.

They are of varying ages, too.

Gone is that notion that only old and wizened would be interested in farming and any form of agricultural activity. Even professionals are.

Some of this new breed are your typical "masalad", complete with fake British accents mastered through years and years of private school or former "Group A" schools as they were known at one time.

Some have given up day jobs to concentrate on this, becoming their own employers.

Some of them are referred to as cellphone farmers in that they drive operations largely from the phone.

Others have been criticised for wasting huge tracts of land that they are privileged to have acquired by not doing anything productive on it.

But largely many of them are working - and working hard.

They are increasingly into tobacco and right now, have been taking their golden leaf to the floors. Others are busy harvesting sugar beans as I write, while others are focused on their soyabeans. Others have already planted their winter wheat crop.

Thanks to the land redistribution programme however, today about 239 000 people have been given land and this figure is for both A1 and A2 farmers according to the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement. The minister, Dr Douglas Mombeshora, says of these, about 18 000 are A2 farmers.

This is what Independence from British colonial rule has done for us. Thanks to it and the freedoms it has brought to us many of us can now be seen driving around in cars bought from proceeds of the land.

Many of us are smiling all the way to the bank each tobacco season; others are even winning awards for their farming prowess, while many more are feeding families and putting children through school because of the land - one's destiny is now in one's hands.

Initially, the land redistribution programme was viewed along political lines with some people viewing it as a Zanu-PF gimmick, and thus shunning it.

Lately that has changed and that is as it should be.

Everybody who does not have a piece of land wants their share.

Even in the Diaspora, Zimbabweans have realised that this a national programme, which should not be about political affiliation.

This is why you have so many people being duped today. There are so many colleagues that have paid someone or the other - be it a chief, district administrator, politician or whatever - after being promised a piece of land.

Desperation is setting in as people realise that this is a national programme and there is no real reason why a Zimbabweans should not be part of it.

Thus we appeal for speedy allocation of the land to more Zimbabweans. There are so many of us waiting.

Apart from the obvious benefits of making money out of farming, provided one is disciplined enough to realise that farming at A2 level has to be supported by funding and inputs plus hard work, some are realising that when something is meant to benefit you as a people, you must benefit.

It is called "getting with the programme".

From the scoffing of years back, today, everyone wants in. Even this generation of ours aged 35 and below, is keen to tap into this resource called land.

And why not? One has to get with the programme.

Those who are not utilising the land should move over, many are waiting for the chance to own land.

Young people and women of this country are also crying out for this land, and rightly so.

We call upon Government to do its best to service the huge appetite for land. With our land under plough, who knows the difference we will make!

btonhodzayi@gmail.com

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