BULAWAYO City Council has converted its three to five-year agricultural leases for plot holders to 25 years to boost agricultural investment and production as well as to create jobs and ensure food security.
Council has, however, imposed tight “use it or lose it” conditions to promote appropriate land utilisation and avert land hoarding under the new 25-year land ownership agreements.
Plot holders had long cried for long-term leases to boost investment and increase agricultural production, but council had resisted and stuck to the short-term agreements arguing that it might require the land in future for other projects.
The short leases were renewable for the same number of yeas on expiry.
“These plots had a potential to produce meaningful economic activities and create employment, but these required meaningful investment. Beneficiaries needed a reliable source of water throughout the year and therefore it would be prudent for them to drill boreholes.
“The beneficiaries may also need structures to house their operations, structures such as fowl runs, sheds for farm produce and housing for workers.
“Such infrastructure required a considerable capital outlay and by extension a reasonably long lease period.
“This would necessitate revisiting the conditions relating to lease of land,” part of the council town lands and planning committee minutes read.
According to the minutes, it was agreed that “current—short term urban agriculture leases in the areas zoned residential/agriculture outside the 12km radius from the general post office be converted from three and five-year leases to 25—year leases with an option to renew and the provision that such properties shall be used for urban agriculture purposes during this period of lease.
Council shall retain the right to cancel the lease if the leaser breaches this or any other conditions.
“That the 40 Dunstal plots approved by council be subject to 25-year leases without an option to purchase, but option to renew leases.”
However, under the council’s “use it or lose it” conditions, the landowners are supposed to
(i) erect structures of a limited size/value to accommodate the leaser’s workers and to house operations,
(ii) to make an undertaking to use the properties fully within a minimum of 25 years and non-compensation would be given after the lapse of the lease,
(iii) should obtain a certificate of continued occupation every five years or exercise option to surrender and that
(iv) the land shall be used for urban agriculture/residential purposes only in terms of the Bulawayo master plan.