Urban Agriculture and Land Conflicts in Zimbabwe: The Case of Glen Norah Suburb in Harare
“The livelihood of a large number of people in cities in developing countries depends on urban agriculture. However, municipal governments to a large extent have looked upon agriculture as incompatible with urban development and as a relict from rural-urban migration that dwindles as cities and urban economies grow. Today economic hardships have necessitated the growth of Urban Agriculture (UA) in Zimbabwe and competition for land among the farmers themselves. Historically, no support has been given to poor urban farmers to enable them to have access to land to practice agriculture.”
“Access to land for UA has largely been through informal ways such as invasion, self-allocation, inheritance, squatting and a few pay rent to access land from those who might not want to cultivate crops that season hence intensified urban land conflicts. Zimbabwean cities have however begun to include urban agriculture in their master development plans.”
“It is believed that urban cultivation in Zimbabwe dates back to the formation of the first colonial cities. It is practiced by the people in various socio- economic groups and for a variety of reasons including subsistence, economic development and hobby. Within the last 15 years, the practice has gained attention importance in urban centres due to increasing urban food insecurity, concerns over environmental degradation of land and water, competition from other land uses and its popularity as a long standing practice of open space cultivation.”
“All farmers interviewed recognized theft of produce by non-cultivators as a growing source of conflict. All respondents in this study complained that they faced problems of theft of produce in their fields. They could not report the matter to the police since they are told that the police do not guard illegally cultivated fields. Because AU has remained largely informal, the law does not protect the urban farmers. Farmers are left to deal with theft using their own methods, which in some instances have been fatal as these involve assaulting the suspected thief. In this study, it was observed that 70.5% of the respondents did not do anything about theft while, 4.1% of the farmers argued that they used other methods of dealing with theft. Such methods include juju (traditional charms). Stories have been told of thieves found with swollen stomachs or still carrying their loot after dawn and this is said to be juju used by owners of the fields. Taking advantage of superstition some farmers have resorted to tying greasy white, red or black fearsome cloths around maize stalks so as to frighten thieves.”
This 5000 word paper was written by Irony Mazuruse, an Independent writer, and Tyanai Masiya, a Lecturer in the Department of Local Govcernance Studies, Midlands State University, Gweru, Zimbabwe.