Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Ambassador Ray’s Speech at the Chakona-Muunganirwa Irrigation Scheme

Ambassador Ray’s Speech

Ambassador Ray’s Speech at the
Chakona-Muunganirwa Irrigation Scheme, Bindura District,
November 23, 2011

Good morning, and thank you for such a warm welcome.  I am especially 
grateful to the District Administrator, John Chihobo, for joining us today 
and making this visit possible.  I would also like to thank Paul Chimedza 
and his colleagues from Africare for making all of the arrangements.  Most 
of all, I wish to thank our hosts here at the Chakona-Muunganirwa Irrigation 
Scheme.  It is generous of you to neglect your potatoes and other crops this 
morning to show me around.
In the United States tomorrow is our national Thanksgiving holiday. 
Farmers in America have just finished their harvest, so this is the right 
time for Americans to reflect on the natural bounty and blessings we enjoy.
Where we are standing today is also a good place to give thanks.  For 
instance, I heard that Mrs. Mutandadzi has already harvested over 
one-and-a-half tons of potatoes from her plot.  This will allow her to buy 
the inputs she needs for an even better harvest next year.  And I am told 
that Mrs. Muzama from Imbwanhema has done well enough with her rabbits to 
buy a cow and inputs and pay for her child to do O-Levels.
So let us give thanks.  With good weather, hard work, and some help from 
Africare, over 5,000 families in Bindura and Guruve districts have become 
more productive and increased their incomes.  That means over 20,000 people 
in this area are better off, and thousands of children are able to stay in 
Some people would look at this success and call it development.  I 
prefer to call it empowerment.
“Empowerment” sometimes gets a bad rap, but it is a good word for the 
expanding possibilities that we all should be thankful for.  A farmer who 
becomes more productive and a student who gets good exam results have more 
power over their own futures than they did before.  A farmer with a surplus 
has the power to choose: he can either invest his surplus or consume it.  A 
student who earns good exam results has the power to choose from many 
possible futures.
This morning I have met many farmers who empowered themselves through 
higher productivity.  Their investments of much labor and a little capital 
allowed them to get the most out of the land.  Access to markets allowed 
them to transform their surplus into whatever else they need and want. 
Everyone remembers how bad it was here in 2007 and 2008 when there was 
nothing to sell or buy. The market disappeared, and everyone suffered.  In 
Bindura and Guruve districts today, Zimbabweans are bringing markets back to 
life.  And markets empower people.
The main reason markets empower people is that they don’t care who you 
are or where you came from.  All that matters is what you can do.  I think 
Zimbabwe’s leaders understood that when they called for land reform at the 
dawn of Zimbabwe’s independence.  It is a simple idea that we all 
understand: give people land and the skills to make it productive and you 
give them a chance to succeed.  The old distinction between communal farmers 
and commercial farmers is no longer valid.  Any farmer who sells into the 
market is a commercial farmer.  Farming is a way of life for many 
Zimbabweans.  But it is also a business that empowers people when the 
government allows markets to work.
Many of the Zimbabweans I have met think that my government is unhappy with 
President Mugabe and ZANU-PF because of land reform.  Let me take a moment 
to set the record straight.
Long before Zimbabwe had A1 or A2 farmers, the U.S. government 
recognized that land reform was necessary in Zimbabwe.  Access to land for 
more people was clearly needed for Zimbabwe to achieve the human dignity 
people fought for.  Yes, the U.S. strongly opposes the violence and 
displacement through which land reform was achieved and which ended or 
disrupted far too many lives.  But let me be clear that we do not oppose the 
general aim of land reform, which is to economically empower people by 
helping them to build better lives through jobs, income generation, 
self-reliance, dignity, and opportunity.
The United States – and I personally, for that matter – believe that 
land reform is still necessary in Zimbabwe.  Far too much of Zimbabwe’s 
farmland lies fallow.  Far too many Zimbabweans –black, white, and in 
between – lack opportunities to make the most of their talents, ideas, and 
ambitions.  I believe that Zimbabwe can achieve far more with its fertile 
land and talented people, and there are many ways to expand production and 
achieve a more equitable distribution of its benefits.
The United States urges Zimbabweans and their government to look 
positively to the future.  Politically motivated dispossession and 
retaliation create conflict, not empowerment. At some point, a society must 
shift from focusing on revenge for sins of the past to instead centering its 
efforts on building a better future for all of its people.
While I cannot advise you on how to tackle this problem, I can and 
do listen to Zimbabweans who think constructively about it.  What I hear 
from them is encouraging.  I find that they agree more often than they 
disagree.  One thing they agree on is that the administration of land should 
be more transparent and more flexible.  With transparency there will also be 
fairness.  With flexibility comes greater efficiency and more production.
The market does not care who tills the land; but the market does care 
about the rule of law and respect for property rights.  People who can make 
good use of land should get a fair chance to make it as productive as 
possible without undercutting the production of others.
Another group that I listen to a lot is American business leaders.  They 
see the opportunities that come with Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.  But they 
worry about the security of their investments.  The violence of how land 
reform was carried out in the past is the main reason for this concern.  As 
Zimbabwe moves into its future, perhaps its greatest challenge is to show 
its own citizens and foreign investors alike that their claims to property 
are safe.  Whether you are a farmer with a leasehold, a business holding the 
title to a warehouse, or an investor with shares in a company, you will not 
be able to prosper unless everyone knows that your claim to that property is 
secure and cannot be taken from you without due process.
To create this sense of security that Zimbabwean and foreign investors 
require, it is vital that the rules be both clear and consistently applied. 
The American investors I speak to all have the same message for me: 
uncertainty around property rights is a deal-breaker.
Neither American businesses nor the American government oppose 
empowerment or more equitable distribution of national wealth.  Let me 
repeat that: Neither American businesses nor the American government oppose 
empowerment or more equitable distribution of national wealth.  But as 
Zimbabwe pursues these objectives, I hope you will remember that true 
empowerment does not come at your neighbor’s expense.
As we give thanks today in this place, we should look around and notice 
how thousands of families have empowered themselves by building something 
new.  In a few weeks’ time, you will see in these fields the green shoots of 
your next harvest.  I hope that harvest will remind you of my country’s 
partnership with Zimbabwe. It is a partnership that I hope will help 
Zimbabweans renew and build their country together.


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