30 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Farmers to Pay Rent to Govt for Using Land

Walter Nyamukondiwa — Farmers will soon pay between $1 and $3 per hectare in rent annually as Government steps up efforts to raise money to expedite the processing of 99-year-leases and promote productivity on the farms, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, Mrs Sophia Tsvakwi, has said. This comes amid reports that the financially hamstrung ministry had managed to process only 10, 99-year-leases for the past six months out of 140 leases targeted for this year.

"Consultations with relevant stakeholders have begun. We are looking at farmers paying rentals. We have not settled on a figure, but will be between $1 and $3 over a year per hectare.

"There have been concerns over the slow pace of processing 99-year leases but it all boils down to the unavailability of resources to carry out surveys and on-site inspections which will ensure that we do not create boundary disputes that will later haunt our farmers," said Mrs Tsvakwi.

She said this at the weekend while addressing the ministries' retreat that was held in Kariba.

Mrs Tsvakwi said the rentals would promote productivity on farms as farmers would work hard to raise the required amounts while those with large swathes of land that they were holding onto for speculative purposes would give them up to remain with what they could afford to use and to pay for.

With some farmers having up to 2 000 ha of land, it would roughly translate to them paying about $6 000 to Government every year using the higher scale. The indications are that this would force multiple farm owners to surrender some of the farms for redistribution to people on the waiting list.

However, some insiders say at this rate, it would mean the ministry would process only 20 leases by the end of the year while it would take about 75 years to clear the 1 500 documents for farmers whose land has been successfully approve.

There are more than 20 000 A2 farmers across the country while about 1 500 of them have so far been approved to get the 99-year-leases which farmers can leverage to access loans from banks to finance their operations.

The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement has blamed the slow processing of 99-year-leases to unavailability of resources to carry out surveys and on-site inspections before the letters are drafted.

The ministry is outsourcing surveyors to survey the farms.

Consultations on the modalities of implementing the system are already underway.

She said most of the farmers who have been approved to get the leases are not forthcoming as they are reluctant to meet some of the costs involved.

The development comes at a time the ministry has finalised A1 permits, which are due for launch soon and will see A1 farmers paying a flat fee of $10 as rentals to Government every year over and above all other obligations to rural district councils.

The rentals will not affect farmers in conservancies.

Deputy Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Ray Ndhlukula, said more needed to be done to expedite the process.

"We need to find ways of ensuring that the process moves faster because at this rate you (Ministry of Lands) are going to take 30 years to give out the 99-year-leases to farmers who need them to access loans from banks," he said.

Finance and Economic Development permanent secretary, Mr Willard Manungo, said the rentals were long overdue saying A2 farmers unable to raise the amount over a period of a year are not being productive on the farm.

"Why should taxpayers finance your own empowerment as farmers?

"You have been given the land for free and you need to be able to ensure that you contribute towards the process of getting the 99-year-leases," he said.

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