A reflection on Zimbabwe’s tobacco boom

EVER since taking back our land, Zimbabwe has successfully increased the number of tobacco farmers from only 4 500 white farmers in 2000 to 106 000 black farmers [in 2015] who are now producing 216 million kgs of the golden leaf. Output almost matching what white farmers were producing at their peak production in 2000 [234 million kg].

This has been achieved in a period of less than 10yrs with some saying black people only really got involved in tobacco farming six years ago.

Also bearing in mind that land is still being redistributed to black farmers even now, meaning many black people still don’t have land.

Nevertheless, white farmers took 100 years, from 1890 to 2000 to achieve these output numbers with stolen land, stolen resources, slave labor, zero competition from blacks, open western support, bank financing, captive western markets and government subsidy.

Compare this with black farmers who have had no capital, no slaves, no government subsidy, they have competition from unjustly enriched white farmers, western economic sanctions that make it difficult to get fertilizer, fuel, machinery and markets. But against those odds, they have grown their production by an average of 216 million over the past 15yrs.

With that Zimbabwe has developed the world’s largest black tobacco industry with the biggest tobacco auction floors the Boka Tobacco Auction Floors being black owned.

Let us take stock of what this really means:

1. For the first time since colonisation, Zimbabwean land is being cultivated sustainably by poor, average Zimbabweans who are able to benefit from their land, learn to farm, build wealth, be productive and support their families.

Imagine how many children are being taken to school and university on these earnings? How many people each of the 106 000 farmers support if we go with the SA figure that says every worker on average supports 11 people?

2. By having the biggest tobacco auction floors in the world, it means that black Zimbabweans are learning and administering international tobacco trade and commerce. Yet the west tells us that Africa is not good at administration.

3. Black farmers are learning everyday to be better more productive farmers.

4. Arbitrage in other areas of agriculture, scarcity in other cash crops and too many players in tobacco will soon push other farmers to diversify and take their skills to other crops.

These are the dynamics of the learning and experience curves which will eventually grow and bring the sector and farming industry in Zimbabwe into equilibrium.

Let’s also recognize that what Zimbabwe is going through is iterative learning, growth and improvement in practice.

It’s the same learning and experience curve that built white farmers who in turn took black land to stop black people from growing and competing with them. A very necessary extension of black/African economic growth and development.

It started small but it’s growing and it’s growing into something major right in front of us. It’s important not to listen to racist detractors who tell us what a failure Zimbabwe is because as you can see, without all the privileges white farmers had, black Zimbabwean farmers have gone against the grain and achieved in a decade what took white farmers a century of raping, pillaging, anti-competition and enslaving to achieve.

Now imagine what will happen in 20 years, 30years, 50 years and a century’s time? Imagine what would happen if South African, Nigerian, Angolan or Libyan capital could flow seamlessly into Zimbabwe without exchange control restrictions.

Don’t ask me why Zimbabweans are leaving Zimbabwe and going into the diaspora because it’s obvious to any level minded person that we have a revolution underway in Zimbabwe….

The nation is being choked by western economic sanctions to make sure it fails. It’s being made an example and being deprived capital, markets, machinery, fuel and fertilizers.

Against those odds we are fighting to deconstruct an evil system of neo-colonial imperialism. We are in the mitigate economic war, build and growth phase of the revolution, and it will require some of us to sacrifice and work outside in the diaspora, raising capital, equipment and skills to support the revolution that is not just for Zimbabweans but inspiration for Africa as a whole.

The Irish once had to leave home to other parts of the world to support Ireland’s renaissance. The British, Chinese and Australians are all migrating in their millions, seeking knowledge, financial fortunes and they are not even under sanctions.

Till today, 55yrs on, 70% of Irish descendants are still in the diaspora fighting to raise capital, skill and support for their revolution. The only difference between them and us is we have an economic war being imposed upon our people by the most powerful economies in the world to ensure that we fail.

But even under those odds, we can do it and we are doing it. This is why the west and white world have sanctions on us. They can’t allow other natives across the world [who lost their land to colonialism], to see that a black nation can take its land and resources, kick out white people and successfully use that land and resources to prosper.

The reason being if Zimbabwe proves that it can be done, then it will be evidence to all other aboriginal, native, colonized people across the world, including South Africans, that they can take back their land, put it in black hands and make it work.

Zimbabwe is making it work in a much shorter period than whites did, 17 years. However, it hasn’t been an overnight success for us to match a 100 years of white output achieved using slaves and stolen resources, when black Zimbabweans are under collective punishment by sanctions and western economic sabotage.

Every revolution requires time, sacrifice, suffering and toil to produce true success and freedom. It took Afrikaner and Rhodesian farmers +120yrs of stealing, destroying black culture, learning from blacks, building their system, receiving government investment & support and experimenting to grow their farming and economies which still couldn’t take care of 95% of the people.

Among the 106 000 Zimbabwe black farmers I mentioned above are friends and family that I know…. so for me this is not theory but it’s real and tangible.

So stop listening to racist propaganda that says Zimbabwe is a failure, because even under the economic warfare of sanctions, it’s not a failure. Its productive and growing exponentially each year despite its short comings.

So let’s knuckle down together as Africans and own our resources, build our economy and grow.

Imagine if we break down these boarders and capital could flow easily between our economies?

“He who has his mouth in the kitchen of the enemy can not be liberated” – Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah

By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare