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Agrarian South Network Blog

Sam Moyo  Student Small Research Grants (SSRG)

Application deadline: 30th June 2018

The SMAIAS is an Independent Research Organisation established in 2002 which seeks to influence land and natural resources policies in Africa through multi-disciplinary social science research, policy dialogues, and training and information dissemination. The SMAIAS interacts with various organizations and countries to assist them in developing capacity for policy formulation and research. It also facilitates policy dialogue among governments, academics, civil society and others on land and agrarian development, especially the land rights of marginalized social groups.

Student Small Research Grants (SSRG)

The Small Research Grants program is intended to support research projects with budgets of $2,500.00 for dissertation writing. The SSRG Program seeks to encourage emerging young African scholars from the land and agrarian disciplines and other related professional fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of scholarship. This program support individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing new and constructive ideologies in the areas of agrarian studies, particularly in the Global South. The sponsored research is aimed at helping to inform policies and practices that improve the lives of marginalised groups who depend on agriculture as a source of their livelihoods.

This highly competitive program aims to identify the most gifted students conducting dissertation research related to the following areas: land issue; agriculture; climate change; food security and gender. The call targets enrolled PhD and Master students supervised by the institution they are affiliated with. Apart from the dissertation, another expected output of the research project will be a publishable paper and a presentation of the findings at the 2019 Agrarian Summer School to be held in Harare. The grants will be granted to an individual and will last for 12 months.

How to apply

Interested applicants should submit their applications containing the following required materials as Word documents. Please note that applications that lack any of these elements will be not be considered.

  • A proposal with the following clearly titled sections: an introduction; statement and contextualization of research question; brief review of literature and/or competing hypotheses; study design and research methodology; theoretical and practical significance of the study; research plan and a brief summary of budget. Proposals must be submitted as Word documents and should not exceed 10 pages long (font type: Times New Roman; font size: 12; line spacing: double).
  • Completed budget template.
  • Annotated plan of deliverables: One-page annotated table of contents for two scholarly articles.
  • A cover letter listing full details- names, email and physical addresses and telephone number- of the members and coordinator of the project
  • Updated Curriculum Vitae with three references
  • Institutional affiliation: A letter indicating your institutional affiliation

NOTE: A successful applicant for this grant will be expected to submit, within three months of signing of the grant contract, a revised draft paper that elaborates the research issue(s), the underlying conceptual framework, a detailed review of the relevant literature, and an outline of the methodological basis of the study. We expect that this will be framed in the form of draft book chapters.

The deadline for submission of applications for the grants is 30th June 2018. Notification of the result of the selection process will be done by 31st July 2018 and applicants who will not hear from us by then should consider their applications unsuccessful. Female candidates are highly encouraged to apply.

All applications should be sent by email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When sending your email kindly use the subject line, ‘SMAIAS-SSRG 2018’ to facilitate the processing of your application.






Please join the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, and the Africa Regional Office (AfRO) for a discussion with Professor Ruth Hall and Refiloe Joala from PLAAS, and Walter Chambati  from the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies (SMAIAS). 

 Date:     Tuesday 8 May 2018

 Time:    14h30 – 16h30

Venue: OSISA Boardroom, Ground Floor, President Place, 1 Hood Street, Rosebank

African food systems are undergoing deep transformations, evidenced by the commercialisation of natural resources and the growing corporatisation of farming inputs, and the production, processing and retailing of food. What have been the responses and experiences of rural and agrarian communities where there has been large-scale landbased and/or agri-business investment?

 PLAAS has tried to look at the wider impact of these investments on food security, agrarian change trajectories, land-based livelihoods and the associated social relations. They draw links between smallholder farmers’ struggles over access and control of productive resources, including land and water and the right to food. The increasing levels of investment are affecting different people in different ways. They have studied the wider impact of these investments on rural livelihoods, household food security and local food environments. As both countries try to increase the level of economic inclusion and resilience of those populations, and grapple with finding the right policy mix, this Conversation will include questions and topics related to the lived experience of smallholders in Zambia and Mozambique. What role do these constituency play in shaping public policy and the behavior of private capital? How are their livelihoods impacted? What is the net effect on the availability and affordability of quality food? How does this reflect on human dignity?


  Professor Ruth Hall: Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies

  Refiloe Joala: Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies

  Walter Chambati:  the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies (SMAIAS)

 Masego Madzwamuse: Lead - Economic Justice cluster, at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, will moderate the discussion.

PLAAS is a leading research, policy engagement, teaching and training institute working on the dynamics of chronic poverty and structural inequality in Southern Africa, with a particular emphasis on the key role of restructuring and contesting land holding and agro-food systems in the subcontinent.

The Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies (SMAIAS) is an independent policy research institution committed to the development of agrarian systems that enhance equitable land rights and sustainable land uses throughout Africa.






SMAIAS to host a Regional Multi-Stakeholder Policy Dialogue on Land Tenure and Contract Farming- 4th -7th September 2017

Against a background of a comprehensive research study on Land Tenure and Contract Farming conducted in 2016/17, the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies (SMAIAS) working in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Land and Agrarian Network (ZiLAN) are pleased to announce that they will be hosting a Regional Multi-Stakeholder Policy Dialogue in Harare from the 4th to the 7th of September 2017. The purpose of the meeting is to  share research findings with social movements and policy makers on Land Tenure and Contract Farming.

The policy dialogue which will be attended by social movements from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as policy makers from Zimbabwe  is also aimed at training civil society organisations on land tenure and contract farming using training manuals that have been developed over the past year. The SMAIAS will also present its findings on the Impact of Command Agriculture on overall maize production in Zimbabwe.

For more information with regards to the proceedings, follow us on the following Twitter handles:

 @AIAS_trust or @ ZiLAN2015


Announcement of Successful Applicants for the Inaugural 2017 Agrarian Studies Training Institute(ASTI) on Agrarian Transformation in the Global South to be held in Harare, Zimbabwe

The Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies(SMAIAS) and the Agrarian South Network(ASN) are pleased to announce the selection of the following students/activists for the Agrarian Studies Training Institute(ASTI) course on Agrarian Transformations in the Global South to be held from the 23rd of October to the 17th of November 2017 in Harare, Zimbabwe




Institutional Affiliation

Ding Ling


The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Chandan Kumar Sharma


Jawaharlal Nehru University,India

S Niyati


Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore

Jagat Basnet


Rhodes University, RSA

Hashim bin Rashid


SOAS, London, UK

Tagesse Abo Melketo


Wolaita Sodo University, Ethiopia

Rebecca Sarku


University of Ghana, Ghana

Susan Mbithe Matiku


University of Venda, RSA

Boaventura Monjane


University of Coimbra, Portugal

Edewor Sarah Edore


Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Nigeria

Tomitho Cathbert



Auma Theresa


Makerere University, Uganda

Chrispin Matenga


University of Zambia, Zambia

Kane Gilles Quentin


University of Yaounde, Cameroon

Tshepo Niini Fokane


University of Western Cape

Lundi Wana


University of Fort Hare

Damien Lobos


National Institute of Agrarian Technology, Argentina

Aline Borghoff Maia


Universidade Federal do ABC,UFABC, Brazil

Allan Razera


UFABC, Brazil

Givania Maria da Silva



Tais Galvao Alves



Clifton Makate


Tongji University, China


Newman Tekwa



Rangariarai Muchetu


Doshisha University, Japan

Pablo Gilomo Lobo


Coimbra University, Portugal

Desmond Ndedzu


University of Zimbabwe

Admire Mutizwa


SEATINI, Zimbabwe

Flora Takayindisa


University of Venda, RSA

Hlekani Kabithi


University of Venda, RSA

George T Mudimu


China Agricultural University,China


 January 2014 Blog

 Dear Colleagues and Friends

 Foundation for Agrarian Studies: 10 year anniversary Conference 2014              9-12 January - Kochi, India

 The 10th anniversary Conference of the Foundation for Agrarian Studies held in the Southern State of Kerala, in India this month provided an opportunity for scholars, activists and mass organisations of rural and marginalised people to discuss various manifestations of the agrarian question in India and other less-developed countries.  The conference programme was organised around three major themes; (1) Agrarian relations and agrarian institutions, (2) Farming systems, climate change and sustainable development, and (3) Living conditions, social discrimination, and inequality; which were examined through presentations and panel discussions and sessions by local and international experts.  The thematic sessions were convened by Professors and Senior Scholars from the Indian Statistical Institute and Tata Institute of Social Sciences. 

 In a keynote presentation entitled Zimbabwe’s land and agrarian reform (1997-2013): A political, social and economic balance sheet’SMAIAS Director Sam Moyo reflected on the socio-economic contradictions, political and economic radicalisation, innovative socio-political mobilisation processes, and on-going resistance, which ultimately resulted in a redistributive land reform outcomes.  Specifying that Zimbabwe does not re-present an ‘ideal type’ model of reform or one which deserves uncritical emulation, he further explained that the transition should not be seen as a model of socialist revolution, since it neither produced a socialist revolution nor a socialist outcome.   This is a key issue point – at both theoretical and empirical levels - which opens up the space needed to consider the deeply embedded structural, social, labour and economic problems which escaped reform through the Independence Pact of 1980, and were further exacerbated by the  neoliberal economic policies adopted from 1990 and the social and economic crises they provoked.  Mass labour protests galvanised broader popular movements which bridged the rural/urban divide.  Outside the cities, these produced more assertive land occupation strategies to replace the ‘passive’ resistance strategies of earlier ‘squatter’ movements and these fuelled confrontation and the radical nationalist reforms, from 1997.   This important elaboration is a vital element of the narrative which makes it possible to understand the comparative lessons which can be derived from Zimbabwe’s experience, by other economies with large peasant and marginalised populations caught in spirals of social injustice and inequality.  In the contemporary Indian context - increasing deregulation under a doctrinaire brand of neoliberal policy thinking recently pushed back the last frontier of national sovereignty with an FDI amendment allowing majority foreign ownership in the key food and manufacturing sectors – is provoking increasingly confrontational strategies by peasant and rural people’s movements whose interests are systematically disregarded or marginalised.  The social dynamics and movement aspects of Zimbabwe’s experience represented resonant empirical perspectives of these themes for the 150 participants including international invitees and representatives from mass peasant, rural, women, Dalit and Tribal people’s movements who attended the Conference.



SMAIAS International Agrarian Studies Summer School 2014                         20-24 January, Harare

 We are gearing up to receive about 60 delegates next week for the Annual International Agrarian Summer School 2014.  Recent international reports (e.g. ILO, 2013) note that over 1.3 billion people on this earth (about 40% of the global workforce and 18% of world population) depend directly for their work on their control/access to land for various land uses. Agriculture continues to be the mainstay of their employment and rural incomes. Focusing on the labour angle - this year’s summer school will delve into some key implications of current trajectories of agrarian change.

 The 2014 Agrarian Summer School will be structured around a few themes. The first two days will be focused on taking stock of the key theoretical questions and conceptual directions s that are emerging in a process of rethinking the Agrarian Question specifically. The second and third day will be devoted to agrarian labour issues, to be addressed by various lead discussants from over 15 countries in the South (and North) will include:

  • Expanding forms of accumulation by dispossession
  • Agrarian employment  and agrarian labour relations
  • The diversification of rural non-farm labour relations
  • New generation rural labour policies
  • Food sovereignty revisited
  • Rural movements and the labour question

 The remaining thematic sessions will be largely based on the proposals and research being carried out by network members addressing the political economy of agrarian labour in different parts of the Global South. One full day will be devoted to a field trip to a peri urban area around Harare, providing participants to experience some of the agrarian labour and food issues discussed in the Summer School sessions.


SMAIAS Blog End of Year Edition – 2013

 Dear Colleagues and Friends,

 Conferences & Events

 Dispossessed Repossessed: Land Matters in African Letters - 7-8 November 2013 – South Africa

 The second Africa Century International African Writers Conference held in Johannesburg brought together African Writers and the African Diaspora to reflect on the broader socio-economic issues which concern Africans and the way they are being written about or appear in literature and writing.  The key theme of the Conference was ‘Land dispossession and repossession’ and the associated narratives of conflict, liberation, colonialism and the politics of place which characterize the writing on this topic, was examined through panel discussions amongst Authors and Academics.  SMAIAS Director Professor Sam Moyo was a key discussant at the Roundtable Dialogue concerning Pan African Letters: Land and Agrarian Reform.

 The event also commemorated the contributions to the world of African letters, made by renowned Nigerian author, scholar and founding patron of the Africa Century International African Writers Conference-  Professor Chinua Adebe – and Ghanaian Poet Kofi Awoonor, who  passed away earlier this year.



Land Conflicts in Southern Africa– Centre for African Studies Basel (Switzerland) – 15-17 Nov 2013

The focus of this 3 day workshop organised by Afrika-Komitee, Centre for African Studies, FEPA, KEESA and Solifonds was to review concrete case studies illustrating recent developments which illustrate the struggles between international corporations and local communities over land in Zimbabwe and South Africa.  The intention was to provide a platform to communities who are directly affected and explore the wider context of their struggles.

Farmworkers and social movements from the Western Cape presented their problems pursuing better living and working conditions on the wine and fruit farms in the region. Activists and farmers from the Southeast of Zimbabwe shared their experience of resistance they mounted against the land grab by a major ethanol project.  Agrarian South Network Committee Member Prof. Lungisile Ntsebeza (UCT) and Walter Chambati (SMAIAS Harare) elaborated on the Trajectories of Land Conflict and The Contested Issues of Land Reform and Race which shape the broader context of these struggles in Southern Africa.

 See more:



New South South Dialogues Conference  – Federal University of ABC – Brazil    21-22 Nov 2013

Organised by Agrarian South Committee member Prof. Paris Yeros, under the auspices of the Nucleaus of Science, Technology and Society of the Federal University of ABC in Sao Paolo Brazil, the main theme of this conference, was to reflect on ’epistemic sovereignty’ in the South and to build the research agenda which promotes South South dialogue, collaboration and intellectual autonomy.  The historical significance of the University’s location - in Brazil’s industrial heartland where the  trade union struggles fought by Lula brought down the military regime in the 1980’s– provides the inspiration for an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to learning which seeks to break withthe domination of Eurocentric and American perspectives by bringing the South ’back in’.

 An important aspect of this is to bring renewed attention to Dependency Theory which until recently was relegated to the sidelines.  Our Agrarian South Network committee was well represented with Professors Sam Moyo, Praveen Jha, Dzodzi Tsikata and Marcelo Rosa presenting the key topics and dimensions shaping the South South Research Agenda.


Official launch of the Zimbabwe Land and Agrarian Network (ZiLan)  Harare 12 Dec 2013

 The Zimbabwe Land and Agrarian Network was officially launched with a one day Conference and Ceremony at Adelaide Acres conference Centre in Harare on 12 December 2013.  The Constitution, Strategic Plan, and Workplan were reviewed and debated among the Conference participants and prospective members.  Delegates from the Ministry of Agriculture presented the CAADPagreement and explained its application to Zimbabwe.  The conference was very well attended with representatives from diverse organisations with an interest in agriculture including women, youth, veterans, organic farmers (ZIMSOFF) and the activist organisation supporting the struggles of small producers at the global level - la Via Campesina.

Work in Progress

Zimbabwe's food grain economy

 SMAIAS is completing a study on Zimbabwe's food grain economy.

 The study examines the performance of Zimbabwe’s food grain production economy particularly the recent liberalisation of food grain input and output markets, with a focus on maize and wheat. The study assesses whether the policy environment and responses to it have promoted the development of effective grain production systems and markets.The changing nature of the food policy regime and the regulatory context within which the grain economy performs are of particular interest.  The various grain market structures, including formal and informal, large-scale and small-scale inputs suppliers and food grain buyers and processing, to gauge the degree of grain market concentration and competitiveness and the extent to which state agents (such as the GMB) are influential players in the grain market are also examined.

 A local market study is currently being done for the ZiLan network



 The December edition of Agrarian South Journal of Political Economy will be out shortly and preparations are now under way for the SMAIAS Agrarian Summer School which will be held in Harare between 20-24 January 2014.

 Wishing all our colleagues, friends, readers and members of our networks a happy end of Year and all the Best for 2014.


 SMAIAS Blog October Edition – 2013

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Conferences & Events

Land for Sustainable Peace Conference - Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

The International Consultation Conference on "Land for Sustainable Peace Conference" organised by the ELCT took place at the S Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU) in Tanzania from the 9-13th September. The University’s Justice and Peace Department played a leading role in the event which brought together representatives from Government, Members of Parliament, diverse Faith based, Civil Society, Academic, Research Media and International organisations, the Diplomatic and Business communities.

The Conference identified ‘Land grabbing’ as a problem which stands to dramatically affect the lives of 80% of Tanzania’s rural population engaged in agricultural production of cash crops and food and sought to understand what part the triple crises in food, fuel and finance of the late 2000’s have played in driving the current rush for land in Africa. The aim of the Consultations was to investigate the real social-political paradoxes which Tanzania faces in this context and reach possible solutions for the sake of creating sustainable peace.

 The concept note for the Conference raised some serious issues which have broader resonance for the African continent.

 For the past few years, Tanzania and other African countries have noticed a fast growing land business in their countries. Domestic and foreign companies as well as local and foreign rich businessmen are buying vast tracts of land for investment and speculative purposes. Some companies acquire land for investment because they predict prices of food and other agricultural commodities to increase. For example, while the government gets into large scale deals, most local businessmen are also buying land for mortgage reasons so as to get assets to enable them get bank loans. Even worse, they buy for future sale to new investors. At this juncture, some of the poorest people in Tanzania are losing their customary rights on land, water sources and other natural resources that have supported their livelihoods for generations. The looming situation seems to be alarming especially on the rights of future generations.

 In a keynote address on the new ‘Scramble for Land in Africa’ SMAIAS director Sam Moyo identified the rise in speculative trading of food grains as a major factor which has both destabilised global food supply and re-orientated discourses about land towards commodification. Labelled as a commodity, food becomes undifferentiated alongside agro fuel, non-food, or specialised food commodities intended for investors’ own home markets or trading on global commodity markets. The term ‘investment’ displaces considerations about existing human and production factors which disappear from view.

Locally produced agricultural commodities are not expected to contribute directly to domestic food supply and the socio-economic toll on affected populations of eliminating entire spheres of agrarian productive activities are not taken into account. The environmental and social costs implicit in the capture of underground resources including water are also ignored. These issues have dramatic consequences for settled populations already involved in agriculture as it places their claims in direct antagonism with those of far more powerful actors in the context of opaque or contradictory conflict resolution processes. Across the continent, these processes are fundamentally redefining the rights of access to land and water resources, and restructuring the social and economic content of the continent’s accumulation trajectory. These changes are introducing structural changes with long term consequences which will be difficult to address or reverse in the future.

 Land acquisitions whether for commodity based speculation or as a financial play benchmarked on assumptions of increasing land values, transfer African agriculture and biodiversity resources into world markets dominated by transnational agribusiness oligopolies. The workings of these markets through the mechanisms of monopoly finance capital extract both surplus value and resources as these become more scarce elsewhere, whilst simultaneously providing the main stimulus and justifications for land grabbing. Far from benefitting the rural populations, such land acquisitions in the name of ‘investment’ are emerging as the proximate causes of increased poverty, marginalization, unemployment and social breakdown - without resolving the problems of food insecurity or low agricultural productivity.

 Further reading on this topic:

 Moyo, S; Praveen Jha & Paris Yeros (2012), Imperialism and Primitive Accumulation: Notes on the New Scramble for Africa.


 Hall, Ruth (2011) Land Grabbing in Africa and the New Politics of Food - Policy Brief 041- June 2011


 News from our Networks

 LA VIA CAMPESINA highlights Small holder producers’ Key role in eradicating World Hunger

According to a Press Release from Rome on 04 October 2013 The FAO has formally acknowledged the essential role played by small holder food producers in the eradication of world hunger and formally recognised La Via Campesina’s role as the major international small food producer’s organisation. In an agreement signed with La Via Campesina, the FAO's Director general Jose Graziano da Silva cemented FAO cooperation to strengthen peasant based agro-ecological food production, protect small holders rights to access land and water, as well as improving farmers rights over seeds in accordance with international and national seed laws. The cooperation will lay special emphasis on the key role played by youth and women in food production as well as the need to improve their access to land and other productive resources.

 According to Elizabeth Mpofu from the General Co-ordination of La Via Campesina,’this is an important step forward in our efforts to address UN institutions and governments to have a policy shift towards food sovereignty. We expect that this cooperation will give further support to our peasants and small farmers who work on their fields to produce food for the majority of the world population’. Concerns over the implications of GMO seeds, land grabs and the growing encroachment of transnational corporations over the food chain, were raised as major challenges to food sovereignty and small farmers.

 FoodMattersZimbabwe - Announcement

 The 1st Traditional and Organic Food FestivalZimbabwe will be held on Saturday 7 December, 9 am to 4 pm, at the Botanic Gardens in Harare

 A number of organisations and groups (including ZAVSAP, ZOPPA, ZIMSOFF, PELUM-Zimbabwe and a recently formed citizens' food group known as FoodMattersZimbabwe), in conjunction with the Food and Nutrition Council, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, have come together to organise a first “Traditional and Organic Food Festival”.

 Many of our traditional foods are highly sought after abroad for their nutritional properties. Awareness of what our small farmers in Zimbabwe produce and learning about how to enjoy the great food grown in our country is a vital part of a healthier, more affordable lifestyle which also strengthens our economy and agrarian markets.

 The aim of the festival is to increase awareness of the many different types of nutritious foods which are grown locally, providing information about the systems that produce this kind of food, as well as benefitting small-scale farmers. Cooking demonstrations will showcase different ways of preparing these foods; while their health and healing properties will be discussed through mini-lectures/talks on food related topics.

  Read more at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/foodmatterszimbabwe

 Join the debate: Discuss the issues, Share with your networks, Like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/SMAIAS-Trust/507930652588364



SMAIAS Blog Spring Edition - September 2013

Conferences & Events

Highway Africa 2013 was held at Rhodes University Grahamstown, SA on 1-2 September.

Under the theme: Speaking truth to power? Media, Politics and Accountability the conference provided a forum to reflect on the role of journalism and the media in society. The media’s central role in making meanings out of phenomena in the daily life of a nation, emphasizing certain facts and eliminating others, was examined against questions of legitimacy, accountability, and power. The power to set the discourse agenda came under closer scrutiny given the media’s increasing role in national revolutions; as the ‘opposition press’ or ‘regime change agents’.


 Speaking on the topic of ‘Power: whose power?’ SMAIAS director Sam Moyo delivered key insights into the dichotomies which shape the understandings of land reforms in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa promoted through the media. The address underlined the need to question assumptions and concepts which define visions of who is involved and what is at stake.

 Starting out with a classic definition of the power matrix locating the bureaucracy or government, and its counterpart in the social relations that are embedded in it being composed of the relations between labour, capital and the peasantry, he noted that much of the discourse is about government – what is the government doing or not. In terms of events since 2000 capital is thought of in a more liberalised context of State withdrawal from public functions, and its replacement with the rise of monopoly finance capital, which includes agrarian capital. At the level of the discourse agrarian interventions through the traditional mechanism of policy reform suddenly appear to contradict the contemporary liberalised context and this raises a fundamental problem for the narrative.

 The solution to the problem has been to break up the story along two standard lines. The first, anchored in old school cultural anthropology of the 19th century type, has successfully transformed the ‘big man’ caricature, into a caricature of culturally shaped politics which obscures the struggles between groups, classes and even races, regions and other identities which are being played out over such important issues as for instance land reform. When combined with the purported irrationality of the so called ‘neo patrimonial’ State, which is simply power hungry and has no interest in responding to the demands of people – the narrative becomes easy to perpetuate.

 The limited source which has informed these narratives has also created a distorted perspective of events by relying primarily on the accounts of land owners and their chosen employees, some corporate sources, and NGOs to frame the ‘popular perspective’ based on their particular field of interest or action. The formation of movements and how the redistribution was negotiated is peremptorily treated in this narrative as a ‘descent’ into chaos. When defined as a non compliance to market transactions and rules, this notion explains why the news of Zimbabwe’s land reform success is met with such surprise.

 News from our Networks:

 Zimbabwe Land and Agrarian network (ZLAN)

 We are planning some field research on land tenure and markets for the ZLAN. The intention is to conduct a field survey with small farmers in one of the peri-urban districts near Harare. The dates and agendas for the network’s forthcoming General Assembly are currently being finalised and approved and we will expect to come back with updates soon.

 People’s Dialogues

 Solidarity Calls for a moratorium on the controversial Pro Savana project underway in Mozambique was a key concern articulated in the joint Press Statements issued after the SADC People’s Forum in Malawi we attended and contributed to last month. (see our Winter blog coverage of the event).

 The Pro Savana Project in Mozambique -Food Security through Cattle Fodder?

 Three years ago, the hectare lease price of agricultural land in Mozambique was being billed at the World Bank’s Annual Bank Conference on Land Policy and Administration in Washington, as ‘cheaper than a cup of coffee’.

 Last year, the Mozambican Government gave the go ahead for Brazilian companies to enter one of the country’s best geographic locations for rain fed agriculture which is currently under cultivation by millions of small farmers producing food for their families and for local and regional markets.


This project known as Pro Savana is a joint venture between Japanese investors and Brazilian agribusiness interests. It aims to replace food production primarily with soyabeans production. Soybean is a livestock feed and whether directed to the domestic or export livestock industry – its assumed contribution to food security only adds up on the premise that it will generate enough surplus to fund food import to compensate for lost domestic food production.

A third problem is the fate of the millions of farmers being threatened with displacement. The Pro Savana project’s large industrial farms can create jobs for only a fraction of the farmers currently settled in the area. In a statement reminiscent of colonial discourses used to justify land grabbing in Zimbabwe and South Africa, a spokesman for the Brazilian investment coordinator GV Agro has dismissed the idea that the project will displace Mozambican farmers saying ProSavana is targeting ‘abandoned areas’ where ‘there is no agriculture being practiced’, adding ‘There is room for mega projects of 30-40,000 ha without major social impacts’.


 A Gates Foundation report misleadingly hails it as a ‘boost to agricultural production to achieve food security…’. The chances for this seem slim. For one, global food grain markets are highly speculative and controlled by a small group of multinational trading firms. On the other hand, Pro Savana investors benefit from extremely generous ‘incentive’ frameworks of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) which severely limit the contributions which will end up in the public purse from any surplus generated under the Pro Savana scheme.

Under such circumstances, how will the food production, self employment and related rural income generating activities which currently engage the peasant populations settled in this area be replaced? If we are to believe that projects such as Pro Savana are necessary to modernise agriculture, the profitable aspect of this capitalist transition will be a ‘pitiful drop of water in a vast ocean of destruction’ (Amin, 2012).



Share your comments, discuss the topics raised in this blog with your friends and networks
on our Facebook site.


 SMAIAS Blog Winter Edition - July 2013

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Our blog this week focuses on Land and Food sovereignty issues in Southern Africa where members of our Agrarian South Network been especially active.

News from our networks

People’s Assembly of South Africa has now issued a Civil Society Declaration which addresses important topics including land occupation, land acquisition, food sovereignty, farm support and governance.  The Declaration was adopted after the Land Race and Nation Conference held in Cape Town 19-22 June.


The Conference was jointly convened by SANPAD.  The conference was designed to discuss ways out South Africa’s current impasse over the issues of Land Tenure Reform, Land Restitution and Land Redistribution, which have remained severely circumscribed by the legislative context which protects the utterly racialised division in access to land.  Resolving the land question is crucial to resolving the national question in South Africa.


The Conference organising committee was led by Fred Hendricks (Dean of Humanities at Rhodes University)and LungisileNtsebeza (NRF Chair in Land Reform and Democracy in South Africa at the University of Cape Town) with support from Kirk Helliker (HOD, Sociology, Rhodes University and CODESRIA. Fred Hendricks, Lungisile Ntsebeza and Kirk Helliker are all key members of our Agrarian South Network. Sam Moyo (Director of SMAIAS) and other Agrarian South Network members (Praveen Jha and Bill Martin) participated.

For further reading on this issue see:

Reclaiming the Nation: The Return of the National Question in Africa, Asia and Latin America  Sam Moyo & Paris Yeros (eds)

SANPAD (South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development) is a unique collaborative research programme that is financed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. SANPAD funds high quality, collaborative research by South African researchers in association with Dutch researchers.

Food Security in Crisis: Lessons for South Africa from Zimbabwe

Neither government’s pre-ESAP high-input agriculture efforts, nor the free market, private sector thrust of the last 20 years has succeeded in substantially increasing the production of the bottom 80%. The “miracle” maize increase by Zimbabwe’s small farmers in the 1980’s was almost fully produced by the top 20% who had easier access to inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and credit and lived in areas with better soil and higher rainfall. In the absence of credit and extension services support, a greater focus on small grains, rather than mono-cropping, and the use of high yielding maize varieties, would reduce the risks of crop failure in drought-prone areas.  (SACSIS)

Jos Martens (agricultural export & deputy director of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Johannesburg) examines the lessons South Africa can draw from Zimbabwe’s experiences and changing policy dynamics around food sovereignty and security.  Jos Martens is connected to our Zimbabwe and Land Agrarian Network.


The third leg of the Zimbabwe Land and Agrarian Network (ZLAN) national policy dialogues on land and agrarian transformation scheduled for the 5th of July 2013 was cancelled. 

Reflections & Reading:

Coloniality of Power in Postcolonial Africa: Myths of Decolonization

A new book published by CODESRIA considers the incomplete de-colonisation of Africa with important case studies from Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Free Access to the book and case studies on CODESRIA’s site:


Coloniality of Power in Postcolonial Africa: Myths of Decolonization. Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni. Dakar, CODESRIA, 2013, 308 p., ISBN: 978-2-86978-578-6

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AIAS is a regional organisation that seeks to influence land and agrarian reform policies through multidisciplinary social science research, policy dialogues, training, networking and information dissemination