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Post-cold war agrarian reform and rural development strategies in Eastern and Central Africa: Kenya, Uganda


MUCH OF THE RURAL SECTOR in Africa remains in the pre-free enterprise economy, suffering low levels of investment, productivity and employment. The rural populations have seen development programmes pass by without much development coming their way in terms of improved standards of living, poverty alleviation and opportunities for meaningful participation in social and political life.

After decades of rural development programmes in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe, from colonial through post-colonial days to present-day adjustment programmes, much still needs to be done to develop agriculture and the rural areas. Kenya is a country with a strong agricultural base. It made important land transfers in the post-independence period trying to achieve more equity in land distribution. However, the reforms served to develop a strong, now-entrenched middle-class elite in the countryside, engaged in small commodity production. With this development, the poorer sections of the peasantry were further impoverished. Giving title deeds in communal lands led to landlessness and squatting. Ethnic confrontations have arisen due to land conflicts. Kenya needs to evolve a more egalitarian, ethnic/traditional-sensitive and efficient system of land reform and development of the rural areas.

Uganda has gone through traumas at all levels of the social system. The political field is now relatively stabilized, though with armed conflicts in some regions. There is no land problem in Uganda as every citizen has access to good land. The reform programme which has been taken over by external elements has caused much suffering for many. However, some significant strides have been made in the economic field, particularly agriculture. Diversification of the coffee-export monoculture is underway, but the financial base is weak. A dire need for investment in social and economic infrastructure for rural development exists. The SAP makes this extremely difficult.

The chief problem for Zimbabwe is land reform. This has progressed very slowly since independence and vast tracts of land remain in the hands of a few former colonial settlers. The reform programme has made it difficult to fund land redistribution and infrastructure building programmes. Zimbabwe has tried a limited decentralization of rural administration and development planning and implementation, but it is limited and hampered by lack of resources and capacity to raise them. The rural areas, particularly communal and small-scale commercial areas, remain locked in low productivity, low investment, low participation and high poverty. The strategy for rural development in Zimbabwe lies in more democratic participation and decentralization, radical land reform and injection of capital investment to build the required infrastructure.

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