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October 17, 2011

Malawi offers Zimbabwe farmers land

by Patrick Musira

Malawi is trying to woo some of Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers who were pushed off their farms by the government's land reform programme after 2000.

According to information at hand, Malawi hopes to harness the reputed expertise of the farmers from Zimbabwe to jump-start that country's commercial agricultural sector in crops other than maize. Malawi had bumper maize harvests in the last three years but had a reduced harvest last season with a surplus of about 200,000 tonnes in the 2010/2011 season.

Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers' Union president Charles Taffs said his union had received communication from the authorities in Malawi offering land to his members.

"The advertised land - at least 112 state farms are on offer to our former farmers," Taffs said. These farms used to belong to former president Kamuzu Hastings Banda and were repossessed by the Malawi government after his demise. Now the state wants to lease these out and they have given us the first offer."

Hoping Zimbabwe's loss might be its gain, Malawi has offered at least 112 state farms to the Zimbabwean farmers to be recruited under renewable leases in different areas of the country to boost and maintain the state's commercial agriculture projects.

Malawi's economy has taken a knock after western countries - who were financing the country's balance of payments and budgetary support - pulled out after differences over issues of governance, allegations of economic mismanagement and President Bingu wa Mutharika's strong stand against gays marriages in the country.

Taffs said the union may help coordinate the move to Malawi if there are any takers "but so far there aren't any. Many still have issues here (in Zimbabwe)", he explained.

White Zimbabwean commercial farmers were made landless by President Mugabe's land reform programme, embarked upon in 2000 when government repossessed land to ostensibly give it to landless blacks.

Many of these farmers migrated to different countries on the continent among them Mozambique, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo to continue their farming operations.


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