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Donors back land reform

International donors signed an agreement on Wednesday to fund technical support for the "inception phase" of Zimbabwe's land reform and resettlement programme, news reports said.

The United States, Sweden, Norway and The Netherlands provided US $920,000 through the UN Development Programme to assist the ministry of agriculture in working out the details of the inception phase of the land scheme which plans to resettle 77,000 rural families on a million hectares of farm land
over two years.

"It's a good start, we've been waiting for this. We hope it's the key to open bigger doors to resource flows," Emerson Zhou of the Zimbabwe Farmers' Union told IRIN. But technical support "cannot be the end in itself," he said. "We need resources for the settlement of people and for infrastructure development."

The government's Inception Phase Framework Plan followed a conference in September last year aimed at charting a more consensual path to land reform. At the meeting donors stressed the need for transparency and poverty-alleviation criteria in what had become a highly politicised debate over skewed land ownership in Zimbabwe. Eleven million hectares of prime land is owned by around 4,500 mostly white commercial farmers. By contrast, millions of black rural families eke out a precarious living on barren communal lands.

The land targetted for the inception phase includes 120 farms amounting to 223,112 hectares voluntarily offered for sale last year. The balance is to be met from, among other sources, further uncontested purchases and novel approaches to better utilise existing farm land which international donors are expected to help fund.

The government retains as its ultimate goal the acquisition of five million hectares for resettlement over the next five years.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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