Ian Scoones welcomes Bill Gates to the real world of land reform


When land distribution has been highly unequal – as in East Asia and in Southern Africa – redistribution of land to smallholders is a key step in economic development, says Ian Scoones co-author of the book: Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities.

Writing on his blog: Zimbabweland, about Bill Gates’s blog on whether the Asian miracle can happen in Africa, Scoones says anyone studying agrarian change will point to the importance of the relationship between agrarian structure, agricultural productivity and wider economic growth.

“It’s good that Bill Gates has noticed this, as he has helped shape agricultural development strategy in Africa over the last decade or so through his multi-million dollar grant giving. And it has not always been in a sensible direction in my view, as politics, policy and land have often been missing (as he now admits)…..

“Surrounded by the technologists and economists he has hired into his Foundation – many from places like Monsanto, but also the CGIAR – his agriculture programmes have been focused on big wins in production, based mostly on technology investments (the classic Green Revolution formula of seeds and fertilisers, as well as irrigation).

“This of course forgets one of the key lessons of the Green Revolution: that it was the wider conditions, including earlier land reforms, that were key, and that the state had to provide a solid, supportive role.”

Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, wrote the blog after reading Joe Studwell’s book: How Asia works, which stressed that the Asian success story was largely through agrarian reform. He said he wanted his foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to adopt what Studwell recommended.

Scoones has scoffed at critics of land reform in Zimbabwe and has argued that the exercise did not benefit only so-called Mugabe “cronies” but ordinary Zimbabweans.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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