60,000 Farm Workers Displaced – in three years

Zimbabwe: Displaced Farm Workers Wallow in Poverty


Headlands — A TOTAL of 60 000 farm workers have been internally displaced over the past three years, according to the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ).

Mashonaland West and Manicaland have the greatest number of recorded displacements linked to the country's political situation and ongoing land reforms; GAPWUZ has observed that the upheavals have plunged the affected farm labourers' lives into serious crisis.

GAPWUZ information officer, Ndaizivei Kamoto, said the displaced farm workers were being deprived of their livelihoods, shelter and access to basic social services such as health and education.

"With only five percent of the farm labour population having received land under the country's land redistribution programme, the situation is being worsened by the fact that most of the displaced farm workers do not have any land to fall back on for self sustenance, especially in the case of alien farm labour," Kamoto said.

"For those that did have rural areas to return to, polarisation across the political divide has played a retrogressive role in their resettlement," she said, adding that "local authorities, village heads and others, in some instances have refused to offer pieces of idle land. They either fear reprisals for reintegrating the now displaced or are in essence the perpetrators themselves".

The GAPWUZ spokesperson however said there were efforts to launch relief farming projects, through the acquisition of land for agriculture, to alleviate poverty as well as create shelter for the displaced workers.

In conjunction with other stakeholders, GAPWUZ successfully obtained land for community based livelihood projects in Mhangura, Trelawney although similar efforts to launch a scheme in Odzi, Manicaland flopped due to the simmering political tensions in the area.

Elphano Michael (32), who was displaced in 2008 from a farm in Headlands where he still resides, said it was a tough call for him to fend for himself and his family as well as his late brother's three children and widow, who he says is often sick.

"My late brother died four years ago because of HIV and Aids and left me the burden of taking care of his family. Following his death a year later I was forced to move because there was no longer any employment as we were told to move by the new owners, yet I had a new family to feed and children to send to school since the farm school had closed," said Michael.

Without any formal employment and land to farm for food, Michael said he has been reduced to near destitution which has forced his children to drop out of school and become farm labourers at nearby farms as the need for food in now the family's main priority.

"I am originally from Malawi and hence had no rural homestead to return to in order to start subsistence farming. I would have roped in their mother but she is sick and has to travel a long distance to get drugs and needs food constantly while on the other hand her rural kin refused to take us in.

"With talks of elections this year I fear we might be displaced again and do not know where to go or what else to do," said Michael despairingly.

Most farm workers were not favourably considered in the land reform programme because they were regarded as people of alien origin and most of them lacked identification documents further adding to their marginalisation.

A report compiled by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre on Zimbabwe last year also noted that a significant number of former farm workers who were evicted from their homes on farms have been forcibly displaced again in the course of different government operations.