Since 2000 there have been major changes in the agrarian economy in Zimbabwe. Extensive land redistribution and severe macro-economic instability have resulted in significant shifts in agricultural production and the functioning of markets, opening opportunities for some and closing options for others.
This article focuses on cattle in Masvingo Province, identifying current patterns and dynamics and future challenges. Key to the analysis is an understanding of the social and political embeddedness of real markets and the relationship between the state and an increasingly informal, sometimes illegal, economy.
The article traces the transformation of a formalized beef production and marketing system, organized around a relatively narrow group of players, to a more fragmented, diverse and complex system with a different – and potentially wider – scope and reach. It highlights a series of phases, from the technocratic order of the colonial era, and its replication in the period following Independence, to a new situation following land reform.
Although there have recently been attempts to reinstate a particular order through price controls and other measures, this has had little impact. The result is a radically reshaped production and market system, which suggests very new political and social relationships for the livestock sector.