In the early 2000s, Zimbabwe’s former dictator Robert Mugabe gave the green light to his paramilitary supporters to invade commercial farms, seizing some 23 million acres of land. The property rights of commercial farmers were revoked and the state resettled the confiscated farms with small‐scale agriculturalists.
The results of Mugabe’s harebrained populism were only too predictable.
Most of the new would‐be farmers had no real knowledge of commercial agriculture and many soon returned to subsistence farming. With much of the country’s arable land now uncultivated, agricultural production quickly dwindled. The actual commercial farmers left for other African countries such as Zambia, Nigeria, and Ghana, taking with them their intricate knowledge of farming practices.
The result was a devastating food shortages in a nation once dubbed the “breadbasket” of Africa. Total food production fell a staggering 60 per cent in the space of ten years, while commercial farmland lost an estimated three‐quarters of its aggregate value between 2000 and 2001 alone. That one‐year loss exceeded by $5.3 billion all the foreign aid given by the World Bank to Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.