Historically, land tenure has been controversial in Zimbabwe. At the moment the main legal challenge for rural communities is weak tenure rights over communal land which is state owned. Land grabbing and evictions driven by private actors getting land for mining or large scale agricultural projects such as biofuels are increasingly becoming an issue of concern. When acquiring communal land little or no effort is made to apply the concept of free, prior informed consent (FPIC). The Chisumbanje biofuels project is a case in point where villagers are fighting against loss of land to investors. There is need to pay particular attention to land ownership and use rights in communal areas.
At the moment the main legal challenge for rural communities is weak tenure rights over communal land which is state owned.
While the fast track land reform programme benefited some productive communities who accessed agricultural land, it also generated challenges related to implementation. The process lacked transparency and accountability and equity. For example, despite the one-man one-farm policy some leaders have more than one farm and some dispossess poor resettled families. Further, some agricultural farms have been abandoned or lying idle after beneficiaries failed to get support or inputs from government. These factors make a land audit as prescribed in the new Constitution necessary. However, the land commission has not yet been established to undertake the land audit. A lot of research and advocacy work is needed in the next five years to influence legal and policy processes in the land sector. Further, the rights of farmers are not fully protected by the law and the concept of intellectual property rights is not fully understood by communal farmers. Traditional seed exchange systems, organic farming, the environment and health may be under threat from genetically modified crops. Some cash crop farmers on contract farming require legal support so that they are not short-changed by get rich quick buyers and marketers of cash crops especially in the tobacco or cotton sector. These issues merit further research and advocacy in the coming five years in partnership with other civil society groups.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association ‘s Wildlife Programming
One of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA)’s areas of programming under its current strategic plan is wildlife, which falls under the Land and Natural Resources Programme. However, apart from some work that was done during the formative years of the organization under the then Transboundary Natural Resources Management Programme (TBNRM), nothing much has been done on this very important sector which is integral to ZELA’s work on natural resources governance. The good news is that this is about to change.
ZELA is partnering with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) under a European Union (EU) funded Project “Partnership for improved anti-poaching and compatible land use in community lands of the Lower Zambezi Mana Pools Transboundary Conservation Area”. In the partnership ZELA is looking at three areas:
- Providing legal support to Mbire Rural District Council in the development of a community wildlife conservancy in wards 1, 2 and 11
- Illegal wildlife trafficking
- Supporting the development of a productive and sustainable fisheries sector in the Lower Zambezi
Under the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF), which is being implemented in Kariba, Binga and Mbire Rural District Councils (RDCs), ZELA is partnering with Action Aid International Zimbabwe on Human and Wildlife Conflict (HWC) issues. To that end, a stakeholders national dialogue workshop on HWC was convened in September 2018. Its objectives were to discuss the major causes of the conflicts and the socio-economic impacts between human and wildlife, the need for stakeholders to come up with possible solutions to the HWC challenges and the engagement of policy makers and various stakeholders on HWC issues.