A history of land acquisition, commercialisation of agriculture and socio-economic differentiation among peasant farmers in a frontier region: The Gokwe District of northwestern Zimbabwe, c. 1945-1990s

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dc.contributor.author Nyambara, Pius S.
dc.date.accessioned 2011-04-20T10:22:40Z
dc.date.available 2011-04-20T10:22:40Z
dc.date.issued 1997-05-26
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10539/9604
dc.description African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented 26 May 1997 en_US
dc.description.abstract Until the 1950s, Gokwe was once perceived as the wild, remote and economically 'backward' domain of the 'Shangwe1 people, but since the influx of immigrants from the south into this region, and the introduction of small-holder cotton production in the early 1960s, Gokwe has been represented as a miracle of agrarian transformation, a frontier of commoditization, and more broadly, as an exemplar of the transition to modernity. From the early 1960s to the mid-1980s Gokwe alone accounted for more than half the country's cotton production from the African areas, and about 15% of the national output. Today(1996), Gokwe contributes about 60 percent of the nation's cotton output and its high market price has spurred even the smallest farmer to master the art of growing the million dollar crop. The population of Gokwe has increased dramatically from an insignificant sparsely populated region of the 'Shangwe' to being one of the most populous districts in the country with a population of over 400 000. Thus, once constituted as a negation of national progress, Gokwe has miraculously asserted itself as a fecund, energetic symbol of primeval development. Its emergence as the fastest growing district in the country in terms of both population and agricultural commodity production especially since independence in 1980 has made Gokwe a palpable emblem of the economic potential of the nation. If, as many now think, Zimbabwe stands as the beacon of hope for salvaging small-scale agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is Gokwe that provides its most dramatic and compelling example. The agricultural performance of Gokwe, just like that of many communal areas of Zimbabwe, especially after 1980, has been variously termed in Zimbabwean literature as the 'peasant miracle'or as 'Zimbabwe's Agricultural Revolution'. However, less attention has been paid to the fact that increased cotton productivity and high levels of marketed cotton were achieved by only a minority of producers. I hypothesize that differential access to land was in part responsible for differential levels of production among small-scale farmers in Gokwe. Unlike other rural areas of Zimbabwe where land pressure from the 1950s on was excessive, in Gokwe land was relatively abundant for a long time after that. However, with the introduction and intensification of commodity production, especially cotton agriculture and with the increase in immigrant population especially from the south, access to land has become a critical issue. In a study carried out by L.de Swardt in 1982 in the communal areas of Gokwe, he discovered that an informal land economy existed in Gokwe. His evidence showed that most households started with a base of approximately 10 acres allocated by the colonial state under the notorious Native Land Husbandry Act of 1951. However, by the early 1980s land had been subsequently traded to such as extent that some households had as much as 30 acres or more while others had as little as 2 acres…. My study is an investigation of how and why this uneven distribution of land observed by Swardt and myself took place. I will examine the history of land acquisition and the landholding practices that prevailed in this frontier region since the resettlement of immigrants from the 1950s. More specifically I will focus on the interface between legal codes and the actual practices of land holding on the ground. I will argue that between the legal paradigms and the actual practice on the ground there existed many conceptual gaps. While on one hand the legal codes were unevenly enforced, on the other 'customary' paradigms were ambiguous. This situation created many conceptual gaps in which both the legal and 'customary' paradigms were manipulated by various groups of people who maneuvered to acquire access to land through various channels. My paper will focus on the various kinds of transactions, negotiations and conflict over land that occurred in this region. By doing so my paper will enhance out understanding of the way in which rapid commercialization of cotton agriculture shaped people's strategies to gain access to land and how this in turn determined patterns of socio-economic differentiation in this region. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.relation.ispartofseries Institute for Advanced Social Research;ISS 326
dc.subject Agriculture. Economic aspects. Zimbabwe. Gokwe North. History. 20th century en_US
dc.subject Peasants. Zimbabwe. Gokwe North. History. 20th century en_US
dc.title A history of land acquisition, commercialisation of agriculture and socio-economic differentiation among peasant farmers in a frontier region: The Gokwe District of northwestern Zimbabwe, c. 1945-1990s en_US
dc.type Working Paper en_US

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