Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Land Use and Land Cover Changes in the Commercial Farming Region of Chiredzi District, Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Land Use and Land Cover Changes in the Commercial Farming Region of Chiredzi District, Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Zimbabwe is one of the few sugar producers in the world operating well inland from the coast, and production relies on irrigation rather than annual rainfall. This has necessitated the monitoring of the land use and land cover dynamics in the sugarcane producing region to enable proper planning and preparedness. There has been a considerable drop in sugarcane production because of socio-economic factors, such as arguments over the utilisation of water resources and land fragmentation leading to some areas not being planted (Chidoko and Chimwai 2011). There are also difficulties in transporting the sugarcane to the processing plants since there has been resettlement of small-scale farmers most of whom do not have transport. Therefore, land use cannot be considered individually as it is closely interlinked with the economic, political and bio-physical conditions, including environmental degradation. Sugarcane production is thus characterised by expanding infrastructural development, population migration and other socio-economic developments; hence, it necessitates land resource monitoring.

A number of studies focusing on land use and land cover changes have been conducted in many parts of the world. However, some works have tended to focus on 'why' land use changes have occurred and they approached the subject mainly from a socio-economic perspective. In Zimbabwe, studies that used remote sensing and Geographical Information Systems techniques to assess land use changes (spatial) affecting small-scale farming situations are rather few. Unlike large-scale farming operations, small-scale farming is often viewed as insignificant in most developing countries; hence, there is need to explore its interaction with large-scale farming in Zimbabwe. Despite this lack of attention, small-scale farmers are utilising land resources for cash cropping among other activities. In most areas, the spatial extent of the land converted from one land use to another is unknown. Lack of knowledge about the spatial changes in land use over time can make the planning of interventions and development of strategies for sustainable land resource management rather difficult.

There is a close link between land use (and its inherent changes), access to land as affected by land tenure, and land value. The common thread that binds all these together is the fact that land is becoming scarce and essential, and that it has become an asset and a primary tool for income generation, wealth and power (Alqurashi and Kumar 2014; Alqurashi and Kumar 2013; Vittek et al. 2014; Li, Moran and Hetrick 2011; Zhang et al. 2014; Zhu and Woodcock 2014).

Changes in land cover by land use are caused mainly by two factors namely; conversion and modification (Li, Moran and Hetrick 2011; Rawat and Kumar 2015; Sinha and Kumar 2013). Land conversion involves the change from one type of use to another, for example changing from maize to sugarcane cropping. Studies by Giri (2012) and Rawat and Kumar (2015) have shown that landscape conversion can be easily monitored and recorded. Modification, on the other hand, involves the change in the condition within a particular land cover type such as change of a suburban forest from its natural state to recreational uses (Friis and Reenberg 2010; Singh, Gupta and Singh 2014).

The inherent land use and land cover dynamics in Chiredzi's commercial agricultural region are thus examined with emphasis on consequent impacts of change detected and likely drivers of that change. In the district, sugarcane is grown by commercial farmers at two large sugar estates situated at Triangle and Hippo Valley and also by the consortium of famers at Mukwasine Estate. The current two sugar mills in the country, Hippo Valley and Triangle Sugar Milling plants both produce about 600,000 tonnes of sugar for the local and export markets. These are both owned by Tongaat-Hulett. Many studies have sought to analyse land use changes. …

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