When 170 000 black farmers occupied 4 000 white farms in Zimbabwe in 2000, it caused world-wide shockwaves. A decade later, Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land finds that the new farmers are doing relatively well, improving their lives and becoming increasingly productive, especially since the US dollar becamethe local currency. While not minimising the depredations of the Mugabe government, and accepting that many of President
Mugabe’s supporters benefited from the ruler’s largesse, the book counters the dominant media narratives of oppression and economic stagnation in Zimbabwe. The book is based on a detailed study of what is actually happening on the ground, drawing on the authors’ own fieldwork and extensive other research. Hanlon, Manjengwa, and Smart show how, despite political violence and mind-boggling hyperinflation, “ordinary” Zimbabweans took charge of their destinies in creative and unacknowledged ways. This raises important questions for the upcoming elections, and also presents new issues for the international community, because United States and European Union sanctions are not just against a corrupt and dictatorial elite, but also against 170 000 ordinary farmers who now use more of the land than the white farmers they displaced and are already producing nearly as much as those white farmers.
With stories and pictures, real farmers tell of their own experiences of setting up the farms and building up production. Fanuel Mutandiro tells how he built up his farm and the 70 trips to Mbare Market in Harare with a tractor and trailer full of tomatoes before he could afford a truck. Esther Makwara shows off her maize field with 8 tonnes per hectare – better than nearly all white farmers. And Mrs Chibanda shows off with pride her new tobacco barn where she cures the tobacco from her 1.5 hectare. But these stories are backed up by data – from the authors’ own fieldwork and extensive other research.