FUNDA means enlightenment in Shona (one of the official languages of Zimbabwe)! It is an association of a few SOAS students working collectively to contribute to the economic empowerment of rural communities in Africa.
- To raise awareness on crucial issues affecting women and vulnerable groups of people with an aim of improving their livelihood.
We aim to encourage debates and dialogue on land reform in Zimbabwe. Land remains a vital political issue to Zimbabwe’s stability. It was central to the Zimbabwe war of liberation that culminated to its recognised independence in 1980. Despite the "willing-buyer-willing-seller" land reform programme during the 80s, the minority white Zimbabwean population continued to occupy most of the fertile agricultural land. In 2000, President Mugabe’s government adopted a Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) aimed at compulsorily redistributing land to the majority black population. This programme was highly contested and worsened the dwindling relationship between the UK and Zimbabwe government leading to several sanctions on Zimbabwe and its consequent withdrawal from the common wealth.
The economic implications of the sanctions and agricultural losses of the FTLRP have been severe. A report by the Africa All Party (APPG) suggests that overall agricultural production declined by 50% between 2000 and 2007. Although small-scale farmers seem to have enjoyed some success, commercial farms on the contrary have suffered from the lack of capital and failed to alleviate food shortages in the country. Women have especially not benefited from the reforms. The AAPG argues that Zimbabwe needs to resolve its political rivalries with the international community, especially the UK in order to return to a “stable, functioning state that can exploit its considerable agricultural potential”. The need for broad land reforms including on compensations, fair and suitable resettlements with an aim of increasing agricultural production have been recommended to address the current issues. However, these require a series of multi-stake holder dialogues between the various parties involved, including at grassroots levels and between the governments involved. A stand alienation of Zimbabwe by the west will only affect the innocent rural poor citizens of Zimbabwe.
To contribute to this process, Funda aims to initiate and provide a platform for dialogue. We hope that creating awareness and promoting dialogue on these issues will inform policy decisions that will improve the lives of ordinary citizens in Zimbabwe.
- To increase dialogue on Zimbabwe’s land issues: to do so our strategy is to organise a series of events that will provide a platform for dialogue. Events will be organised both within the UK and in Zimbabwe targeting academics, policy makers, students, stakeholder farmers and community opinion leaders. Efforts will be made to support and publicise research on land reforms in Zimbabwe with an aim of encouraging critical thinking on possible alternatives.
Advocacy within the UK
- With the support of the Centre for African Studies (CAS) and the Royal African Society (RAS), Funda will organise two plenary discussions within SOAS to initiate debates and discussions on Zimbabwe. Discussions will involve academics within SOAS that are researching on land related issues in Zimbabwe. We will target students studying African Politics from the department of Political Science and international relations, and from the Department of Development studies. We will consider inviting a member from the APPG to comment on the discussions. These events will be documented with an aim of producing an advocacy video that will be used as a tool to increase awareness on the issues.
- With the support of the Royal African Society, we will organise an event with the members of the APPG to follow up on the APPG’s 2009 report on land in Zimbabwe. Our objective for this event is to ensure that APPG members are briefed on the action points and recommendations from their 2009 report with an aim of invigorating momentum on Zimbabwe’s issues.
Community and Public Dialogues in Zimbabwe
- With the support of universities in Zimbabwe, we will organise public dialogues to encourage debate on land and the future of Zimbabwe. We will consider the possibility of promoting and supporting research by students and lecturers within universities aimed at reforming land policy in the country.
- Similar dialogues and consultation meetings will be conducted at the community level, in partnership with community-based organisations within Zimbabwe.
- Although the details of these activities will be revised based on actual practicalities, the intention is promoting dialogue between and among citizens and their government. We believe that a people driven policy process is paramount to resolving land conflict in Zimbabwe.