Freedom Mazwi and George T. Mudimu
Indeed the Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTRLP) foregrounded many patterns, at the same time calling for improved and more reality oriented heuristics. Thus, prompting the rise of various models and conceptualisations as researchers and policy makers grappled to have a better understanding of the emergent reality. In this small contribution we aim to stimulate more debate, discussion and more importantly, a better understanding of one of these models, more specifically, the Trimodal Agrarian structure. This blog article is grounded on the thesis propounded by Moyo and Yeros (2005), Moyo (2011; 2013; 2016) and Chambati (2011; 2017). Understanding the features and characteristics of the trimodal agrarian structure, is important for policy makers at this stage as the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) is undertaking a land audit with a view of restructuring the countryside 19 years after the implementation of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). In this article we proceed by outlining the origins, key features of the trimodal and some emerging debates on the trimodal structure. More critically, we seek to address the question whether the classes identified in the trimodal agrarian structure are static or fluid. In short, are there capitalist tendencies within the peasantry or vice-versa?
The Changing Agrarian Structure: From Bimodal To Trimodal
During the colonial and early post-colonial period Zimbabwe was characterised by a bimodal (dual) agrarian structure. This structure was made of ‘extremely’ large scale and small-scale farms (Moyo, 1995:302; 2011). A significant proportion of the peasantry acted as a labor provisioning class for the capitalist farmers. The bimodal structure was composed of 6000 white farmers, limited number of agro estates and about 700 000 peasant farmers and a few indigenous commercial estates (Moyo and Nyoni, 2013:200,201). The Large-scale Commercial farmers (LSCFs) dominated in terms of land ownership and capitalisation etc. Peasant farming households mainly relied on self-finance to fund their agricultural operations although less than 10 percent of these households were able to access formal agricultural bank credit from the state owned Agricultural Finance of Zimbabwe (AFC) (Chimedza, 1994). Moyo (2000) and Sachikonye (1989) have demonstrated how a few peasant households located in high potential agro-ecological zones produced horticultural crops for exports under former white commercial farmers and also through cooperative schemes supported by international agencies such as the USAID. This phenomenon laid the basis for social differentiation within the peasantry. It must also be pointed out that differentiation within the peasantry during the first decade of independence was driven by a cotton boom which led to the emergence of successful farmers “Hurudza” (Nyambara 2003).
Apart from agricultural financing models, labour utilisation patterns and levels of capitalisation, the peasantry and LSCF sector under the bimodal agrarian structure were also differentiated in terms of levels of education as well as production orientation (Sachikonye 1989: Moyo 1995). The LSCF sector mainly produced export crops such as tobacco, horticulture and cotton while the peasant sector was less inserted into global markets and largely produced maize for auto-consumption although there were tendencies to sell the surplus in good agricultural seasons (Moyo, 2000). At this stage, it is critical to highlight that the peasantry is not a homogenous group (Yeros 2002, Moyo 2016). Within this category, one finds the “poor”, “middle” and “rich” peasants who are all differentiated on the basis of asset ownership, access to other forms of finance, labour utilisation, production orientation, education, land sizes and employment (Sachikonye, 1989; Moyo, 2016). For the record, we state that it is highly problematic to reduce the bimodal or the trimodal (which is discussed later) agrarian structures to a question of varying land sizes and the number of land beneficiaries per each settlement model as has been done by most agrarian scholars on Zimbabwe. An analysis of the emergent social relations is of paramount importance in any discussions of the emerging /existing agrarian structure (See Moyo and Yeros, 2005; Moyo, 2016; Chambati, 2011).
Fast forward to the post fast track land reform era, the trimodal structure has been largely inserted and more pronounced. This trimodal structure it is argued, is a broadly based structure with various modes of accumulation (Moyo and Nyoni, 2013:200). This structure is largely characterised by accumulation from below ( Moyo etal, 2009; Moyo and Yeros, 2005). The focus of this article is on the well-pronounced trimodal structure that is the one that arose out of the Fast Track Land Reform Program. The propounded trimodal agrarian structure is made up of three categories and is a result of state policy (Land reform program, state input programs etc.). These 3 categories are:
(i) The peasantry (communal areas, old resettlement and A1 farms);
(ii) The Medium to large scale farms and A2 farms;
(iii) Agro estates (state or private owned) agro conservancy and institutional estates (Moyo and Nyoni, 2013; Moyo and Yeros, 2013; Sakata, 2016:5).
In essence the peasantry now dominates in terms of aggregate number of farms, thus, by and large the FTLRP reduced the LSCF and increased the middle sized farms and the peasantry (Moyo et al 2009).
These three categories are in a constant flux, but broadly are differentiated according to access to different farming resources, land size, tenure, social status and labor forms (Chambati, 2013:2017; Moyo and Nyoni, 2013; Moyo and Yeros, 2013). Moyo (2016) argues that with the penetration of agrarian capital in recent decades, the agrarian structures of most African countries have since been reconfigured to a trimodal structure characterised by the persistence of the peasantry. The trimodal structure has been more recognised by broader studies that cover major agro- regions of Zimbabwe (Moyo et al, 2009). However, its existence can also be discerned in localised studies (sub-national level etc.) although there have been few studies that interrogate the trimodal structure at a sub-national level. In exploring any agrarian structure it is critical to pay attention to the factors listed above; land size, capitalisation, labor forms, land tenure, state role etc. Thus, capitalist farms are recognisable by their labour hiring practices and continuous accumulation (reinvestments of profits into the production processes), emphasis on cash crops over auto-consumption crops and on the other hand the peasantry would engage in semi-proletarianisation.
A number of studies have been conducted to analyse the evolving differentiation processes in the countries post- FTLRP (see Moyo et al, 2009, Scoones et al, 2010; Shonhe, 2017). These studies have used different models with Moyo et al, (2009) statistical clustering process identifying capital intensive farmers (12 percent), unmarried (widowed farmers) (14.5 percent), civil servants (27 percent) and latest entrants (15 percent). Overall, Moyo et al, (2009) study noted that although differentiation was beginning to occur, constraining this process was public policy which was not geared to provide subsidised inputs to farmers and as such close to 50 percent of the farmers were likely to remain poor. As they point out, ‘unequal class-based access to farming inputs will remain a determinant of social differentiation, and a key source of rural grievance’ (ibid: 178)
From these findings, one can easily tell that the trimodal agrarian structure remains critical in furthering class-based social differentiation as other studies have also shown that middle-scale capitalist farmers are likely to benefit more when compared to peasant farmers from state policies. A recent paper on Command Agriculture showed how the middle-scale A2 capitalist farmers have more influence of the public policy making process and the resultant state support policies (see Mazwi et al, 2019).
Other key studies to have emerged post FTLRP analysing the class dynamics in the countryside have identified the emergence of a Quad- PMMR model structure (Shonhe, 2017; 2019). This, the proponents of the Quad-PMMR acknowledge the emergence of four classes namely the ‘poor peasants’, ‘middle peasants’, ‘middle to rich peasants’ and ‘rich peasants” . To this, this article takes an opposing view because the Quad-PMMR model labels the transition from middle to rich peasant as a class on its own (Shonhe, 2017; Shonhe, 2019:18). The labeling of the transition as a class ignores the very basic tenets of class analysis that assumes that classes are in a constant flux. In fact, numerous studies point out that the middle peasant has more chances of backsliding to the poor peasant category compared to forward progression to the rich peasant.
Hence, if one were to follow the quad modal theorizing of transition from middle to rich peasant as a class, one would end up with 6 classes yet in essence the other three are merely transition phases that are a sui generis to class analysis. Thus, we are inclined to argue that the trimodal offers a better understanding of agrarian change in that it infuses the classical debates of social differentiation at the same time paying attention to the broader and nuanced realities of the countryside, more specifically to the post- fast track Zimbabwe. Thus, this article posits that any analysis of the agrarian structure must (i) contend with the basics of the differentiation within the various classes (ii) be aware of the tendencies and flux among these classes (least we brand transitions as emergent classes); (iii) pay attention to land size, capitalisation of farm production, labour, tenure, role of the state etc. Hence, the future of the studies on agrarian change can be thought of in light of arguments by Moyo and Yeros (2013:341), ‘Any genuine class analysis of the new Zimbabwe must come to grips with the tendencies and contradictions of this tri-modal structure and avoid regime-change theories of ‘rentier economy’ (Davies 2005) or ‘crony capitalism’ (Bond 2009), or notions of ‘passive revolution’, which are based on nebulous assessments of the new class relations (e.g., Raftopoulos 2010). The fundamental question is whether Zimbabwe will be able to sustain, via this tri-modal structure, an introverted process of accumulation ‘from below’.
The purpose of this article has been to stimulate debate on the tri-modal agrarian structure thesis. We have argued that it would be an act of intellectual suicide to reduce the thesis to landholdings and settlement model categories without going deeper to examine the fundamental social relations. We contend, without dismissing the rise of any other heuristics, that any serious conceptualisation of agrarian change must pay attention to the basics of agrarian change at the same time paying deeper insights to the ground level realities in the countryside. We have restated the position advanced by the forbearers of the thesis (trimodal) that of importance are issues to do with the orientation of production, access to other forms of finance, employment status, labour utilisation and farm mechanisation when analysing the trimodal agrarian structure or any other agrarian structure in a post land reform context. The paper also showed that any study of agrarian change must recognise that agrarian classes are in constant flux (they are not static) and transitions are not classes. Going forward, we propose that agrarian scholars on Zimbabwe must engage in a deeper analysis of the trimodal agrarian structure (or any other structure) and conceptualise how large-scale A2 farmers who at the beginning of the FTLRP were meant to be capitalist farmers but after almost two decades are seen to be performing poorly when it comes to production, mechanisation and labour utilisation. This is an issue, which the ongoing land audit must address by way of downsizing such farms. The exercise of downsizing ‘oversized’ farms is a necessity to give a true meaning to the trimodal agrarian structure, that which can only spur accumulation from below and reduce the peasantry’s precarity which has become more acute in recent days.
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