HARARE, June 30 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s land tenure system has made the agriculture sector the least attractive to both foreign and local investors, the head of the country’s investment promotion body has said.
President Robert Mugabe’s government in 2000 began seizing land from about 4,000 white farmers, giving it to thousands of black farmers under a redistribution programme it said was meant to address colonial imbalances. Land ownership has passed to the state, and beneficiaries have no bankable title to the land they occupy.
Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) chair Nigel Chanakira on Thursday told The Source that agriculture had not received much investment, with only three meaningful investments having being directed towards that sector over the past five years.
“If you look at the amount of money that has gone into mining, industry and services then you compare that with agriculture, it is pathetic given our land stock, climate and knowhow. It is a crying shame. As ZIA, agriculture is a primary focus for us going into the future,” he said.
Some land reform beneficiaries were issued with 99 year leases for the land they hold. Under the arrangement, the land remains the property of the state, which can withdraw the lease at any time should it deem it fit. Banks are reluctant to take the leases as collateral for lending.
“Locally the banks are very uncomfortable with lending for agriculture because they are still waiting for clarification on security of tittle on land and international capital is always going to be shy until such issues are sorted.”
According to a United Nations investment report, mining, agriculture and services were the drivers of the $545 million FDI which came into the country in 2014.
Also commenting on the same issue, Douglas Hoto, chief executive of financial services group First Mutual, said there was need for more bankable security on land.
“We would want to diversify our portfolio and put some money in agriculture. We see the potential but without the right land tenure system in place that potential will not be met.”