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Thursday, 7 August 2008

Insights from Chiefs (Chief Chibesakunda)

"We as traditional leaders, should look at strategies that will enhance food security...in its absence, people can't make confident decisions because they are hungry... Most people in the rural areas lack organisational capacity to produce adequate food.... Colonialists settled on the land they were able to utilise and the rest of the land they turned into tribal land which they did not service so that the natives could have difficulties to market their produce....Today, those places are still under serviced with roads and other essential infrastructure, this is one of the issues we should be capturing."

Chief Chibesakunda on the potential for traditional leadership to play effective role in enhancing food security. Naturally, I agree with him that Chiefs can be useful "agents of change" in this area, provided the incentives are strong and accompanied with investment in know-how.

Also quite interesting that he appears to lay much of the blame for the current food insecurity on the infrastructural challenges emanating from the colonial era (and implicitly government's failure to remedy the situation). There's no direct acknowledgement that the absence of land reform might also be partly to blame. Perhaps, the Chief's vision of a thriving rural sector led by government investment in local infrastructure, with the traditional leaders taking the leading role in the agrarian revolution, is meant to get round that problem! His message appears to be, "just give us the infrastructure, we'll do everything!"

Can the promise of a leading role in an agrarian revolution be enough incentive for Chiefs to modernise and recast themselves as roving rural entrepreneurs, as part of a viable deal on broader land reform ? I suspect it would need more than that, but in theory I am open to any strategy that would seek to use existing social structures. After all in the past, chiefs have proved quite entreprenueral. The challenge is to get the incentives right.

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