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An anecdote of farmer- miner conflict

Compiled by Nobuhle T (Mabhikwa) Chikuni

10 September 2021

Agricultural activities provide employment and income for 60-70 percent of the population, supplies 60 percent of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributes 40 percent of total export earnings. The sector contributes approximately 17 percent to Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product with many relying on it as source of livelihood The performance of agriculture is a key determinant of rural livelihood resilience and poverty level[1].

It is no doubt that farmers and miners both provide pathways in fighting poverty including creation of opportunities for development. Agriculture provides direct benefits to those who engage in it. Farmers receive payments for crops they produce, which they can then use to invest in future production and to pay for their families’ basic needs. Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy as Zimbabweans her huge rural populace   deriving livelihood from agriculture and other related rural economic activities.

Zimbabwe’s mining sector plays a very significant role in the development of the country as it has continued to bring much needed income into the country. It contributes to foreign exchange, GDP, government revenues, capital formation and infrastructure development[2]. Zimbabwe’s mining sector is highly diversified, with close to 40 different minerals.  The predominant minerals include platinum, chrome, gold, coal, and diamonds.  The country boasts of having the second-largest platinum deposit and high-grade chromium ores in the world, with approximately 2.8 billion tons of platinum group metals and 10 billion tons of chromium ore.  Mining also accounts for about 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and has been earmarked to be a US$12 billion economy by 2023 if the government addresses challenges such as persistent power shortages, foreign currency shortages, and policy uncertainties[3].

  However, the compatibility of these two land uses is questionable as this as resulted in conflict. Conflict over land, and mostly water. Reconciling these two important drivers has become a critical governance issue that needs to be addressed.

Farmer-miner conflict in Zimbabwe

The history of farmer miner dates to the precolonial era where there was a long-standing dispute between miners and farmers over timber, water, grazing rights and land damage caused by mining operations on farms on the Gold Belt in colonial Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia)[4]. The conflict continues up to date especially in areas where artisanal and small-scale mining  is taking place in Zimbabwe. Both miners and farmers rely heavily on land to be productive. While one works underground the other works on the surface. The dispute originates from the laws and policies in both sectors that are not complimentary. Under the Mines and Minerals Act mining supersedes all other land uses while under the Communal Land Act, the farmers have usufruct rights. the usufruct rights are however not protected when a mining related project comes up. This has been one of the drivers of conflict as sometimes the miners do not respect the rights, inform, or seek consent from the farmer on the land. While there are provisions for compensation of farmers, this is not the practice on the ground.

In areas that ZELA works in, farmer-miner conflict has been noted as an issue of concern with some  farmers noting how they now live in fear of displacement and loss of agricultural land if minerals are discovered in their area. For example, in Bikita, when Bayrich Enterprises started mining operations in the area in 2011, the company moved in to put structures on village land without any consultations with villagers. No compensation was provided for loss of farming land. A request for the company to erect boreholes and build an irrigation scheme for the community was also ignored. In Insiza and Matobo, many farmers are also seasonal miners or farmers in that they also mine for gold as artisanal miners. In this case, many complained that if gold deposits are discovered by artisanal miners, farming land will be damaged. Artisanal miners also use mercury to process gold, and this causes water pollution. Farmers have also shared concerns on how miners do not use appropriate waste disposal facilities, in some cases cattle them feed on human waste that has resulted in livestock getting diseases and later deemed unsuitable for human consumption.  In Bubi,miners have lamented how they have claims pegged in agricultural land, after paying all the taxes they struggle with being able to access the claims they still service regularly. They shared concerns on how sometimes miners deliberately leave their cattle to wonder around their claims resulting in the death of cattle. One miner shared the following,” My mining claim was pegged in the 90s, however. Recently a farmer was given the same land that had been pegged for mining. I approached the land authorities to seek help with the dispute but was told to engage with the new farmer.” Up to date the miner struggles with accessing the land that he owned, and his engagement efforts have been in vain. Miners bemoan the taxes they pay but are barred from accessing the land they are paying for while in some cases the land owns by the farmers lies idle. 

Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms have been put in place to help deal with the challenge. It is important to note that the current coping mechanisms are progressive, but policies and laws need to be reviewed to complement the efforts on the ground.  Both farmers and miners are equally destroyers of the indigenous forests. While miners cut down trees for timber required for mine props and fuel, the farmers clear the land to access the land that they can use to cultivate crops.  The norm is miners and farmers never see eye to eye as a result no one can take ownership of the environmental damage caused by both parties This leaves the problem of land degradation unaddressed. Under the National Development Strategy 1 one of its priority areas include the thrust of environmental protection, climate resilience and natural resource management under the NDS1 will be on sustainable management of wetlands, rehabilitation of mined areas, climate change mitigation and sustainable natural resources management[5]. With financial support from Trocaire and in an effort to contribute to environmental protection, ZELA has been able to facilitate engagement between the miners and farmers in Insiza. This has resulted in the development of environmental Management committees with support from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Insiza Rural District Council (IRDC).  These committees are made up of both miners and farmers. These Committees have done a lot of community trainings on environmental management and stewardship. Engagement has been used to deal with the conflict between miners and farmers. This has also resulted the review of their environmental bylaws to help deal with the conflict.  While this is a start, more can be done and that includes the finalisation of the Mines and Minerals Amendment bill which is anticipated to have a provision that will deal with the conflict between the farmer and the miner.  Going forward ZELA intends to replicate this model in the other areas where the operates in and where farmer- miner conflict is of concern.

Recommendations

  • Finalisations of the mines and mineral amendment bill with provisions to address farmer-miner conflict and Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC).
  • Review of laws and polices to be aligned with the national constitution of Zimbabwe
  • Capacitate RDCs on land use planning.
  • Collaboration between the Ministry of Mines and Mining development  and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement
  • Finalisation of the mining cadastre to address the allocation of mining claims

[1] http://www.fao.org/zimbabwe/fao-in-zimbabwe/zimbabwe-at-a-glance/fr/

[2] https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/234646936.pdf

[3] https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/zimbabwe-mining-and-minerals

[4] https://www.environmentandsociety.org/mml/contestation-over-resources-farmer-miner-dispute-colonial-zimbabwe-1903-1939

[5] https://www.veritaszim.net/sites/veritas_d/files/NDS.pdf

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