Chisumbanje Villagers Threaten To Destroy Ethanol Project

This is as a result of a long standing land dispute between Macdom Private Company in charge of the plant and the local community.

Radio VOP visited the area and met angry villagers who said while they were not opposed to the ethanol project, they were not happy with the process of implementation which they described as ‘unjust’.

“The whole community is from next week going to plough in the area,” said Headman Chisumbanje who was leading angry villagers. “We are not afraid of what comes after because we have no source of livelihood…other than the land which the company grabbed from us. As a matter of fact we have been battling with this company since it came here three years ago that we need our land which we used to rely on. We have been further impoverished by this company.”

Headman Manyanga said they had been disempowered by the company because it had taken their land.

The company was given the 40 000 hectares of land with irrigation facilities by Agriculture & Rural Development Authority – ARDA which was previously utilising only 5 000 hectares.

Villagers had been using the 35 000 hectares of land for peasant farming since the 1950s.

Radio VOP visited the areas’ paramount chief Tobias Hliziyo Garawe to get the historical background of the disputed land.

“It’s true that villagers were using the land since time immemorial but it’s unfounded that they were displaced by the arrival of this company in question,” said Chief Garwe. “What used to happen was that the land was reserved for sugarcane production in the 1950 well before the country attained independence. The community did not build permanent homes there because of this but used to till in the lands knowingly that it was a reserved area for the project which upon the attainment of independence the country could not find an investor, till three years ago. So the area has a long history which the new generation might not easily understand,” he said.

The area’s local member of Parliament Meki Makuyana, who said he was not opposed to the ethanol project, said the community was worried by irregularities in the process of the company’s takeover of the 35 000 hectares of land which had for a long time not been used by ARDA.  

Makuyana said he has approached government to quickly redress the issue for the smooth running of the ethanol project.

“What is confusing is the fact that the issue falls under a number of government ministries and departments. But what I have done to avoid the potential massive disturbances of the project, is that of approaching Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who personally visited the areas on a fact finding mission. After his visit he recently sent a ministerial delegation which also visited the area for assessment and we are still waiting for its report and response.

“As the local Member of Parliament I am not opposed to the project which whose idea is noble, but I am worried by lack of community consultation hence this dispute, which can be resolved if proper engagement with concerned parties is done,”Makuyana said.

Contacted for Comment Macdom Representative, Alex Zichauya, said they have no issues with villagers as they got the land from ARDA.

“We are not aware of any evictions or displacements of people from the area are we are operating from. Yes we understand that they were people who used to use the 35 000 hectares which ARDA was not using which were reserved for the project and as a company we have since embraced them through giving them irrigated sugarcane portions. In fact we have allocated 10% of all the newly cultivated land constituting 4 000 hectares of flood irrigation to the local community. Under this programme we are providing them with the inputs as well as watering their portions which are within the irrigation scheme, and this a life time programme we have brought to the community which used to use the land which we are now using .It’s unfortunate that there are a few individuals who are resisting the project which on a broader scope is a national benefit, “he said.