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Agriculture Minister Kumbirai Kangai
Common practice to limit land holdings
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 12:25 GMT
Zimbabwe's large farms face squeeze

Zimbabwe farmer Much of the most fertile land is owned by the minority whites

By Joseph Winter in Harare

Zimbabwe's Government has limited the size of farms, in its latest attempt to introduce controversial land reforms.

Following the colonial era, whites owned most of Zimbabwe's best farm land and redistribution has been a central electoral promise by President Robert Mugabe for the past 20 years.

And now his government has acted by setting the maximum size of individual farms at just 3,000 hectares, and much less in areas which receive high rainfall.

Farming family Many families struggle to farm on dry, infertile plots of land

With farm sizes greatly reduced, that policy would mean that farmers with many thousands of hectares of land would see their holdings decimated.

The measure is not expected to have much immediate effect, but President Mugabe has long spoken of a policy of one man, one farm.

'Totally impractical'

A farmers' representative told the BBC the new law was totally impractical, as it would mean new land surveys would have to be carried out on all the country's farmland.

He also said it was a prelude to a land tax which could force farmers to give up some of their land.

Landowners would have to pay more tax the more land or greater number of farms they held, harming large-scale farmers.

White farmers and owners say that such measures will reduce agricultural productivity at a time when Zimbabwe's economy is in dire straits.

They argue that large-scale farms are more efficient than smallholdings.

While Mr Mugabe has been talking of radical land reform since he came to power, little progress has been made, largely because Zimbabwe does not have the necessary finance.

Donors have refused to foot the bill, fearing corruption in the allocation of farmland.

Mr Mugabe recently repeated his threats not to pay landowners if their farms were seized, despite provisions in both the country's old constitution and a new draft that compensation must be paid.

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See also:
01 Dec 98 |  Africa
Zimbabwe government faces economic anger
26 Nov 98 |  Africa
Zimbabwe faces farming anarchy
20 Nov 98 |  Africa
Zimbabwe gives go-ahead for land seizures
21 Nov 98 |  UK
UK queries Zimbabwe's land grab
15 Sep 98 |  Africa
Zimbabwe backtracks on land reform

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