The conflict between farmers and miners over natural resources is not a new phenomenon and has a long history across various regions of the world. The conflict usually arises when both groups demand access to the same natural resource, such as land, water, minerals, or forests, which are critical for their livelihoods.
One of the earliest examples of such a conflict is the gold rush in California in the mid-19th century, where thousands of miners competed with farmers for access to fertile land and water resources. The competition often led to violent clashes and disputes over property rights. In recent years, conflicts between farmers and miners has intensified in many parts of the world due to the growing demand for natural resources and the expansion of mining activities into new areas. For example, in Brazil, conflicts have arisen between farmers and mining companies over access to water resources in the Amazon region, which has led to protests and violent clashes.
In Africa, the conflict between farmers and miners has been ongoing for decades, particularly in countries rich in mineral deposits such as South Africa, Ghana, and Zimbabwe. In these countries, mining activities often require large tracts of land, which are often prime agricultural areas. The mining activities, such as excavation, drilling, and blasting, can cause soil erosion, water pollution, and destruction of crops, leading to a loss of livelihoods for farmers.
In Zimbabwe, conflicts between farmers and artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) have been on the rise in recent years, particularly in rural areas. These conflicts are often related to competition for access to land and natural resources, including water and minerals. Some of the key issues that have contributed to farmer-miner conflicts in Zimbabwe include:
Land tenure: Land tenure is a major issue in Zimbabwe, with many farmers and miners operating on land without clear ownership or use rights. This has led to disputes over land use and access, particularly in areas where there are mineral deposits.
Environmental impacts: ASM activities, particularly those that involve the use of mercury and other chemicals, can have negative environmental impacts, including soil erosion, water pollution, and deforestation. This can affect agricultural productivity and lead to conflicts between farmers and miners.
Livelihoods: Both farmers and miners rely on natural resources for their livelihoods, and conflicts can arise when one group feels that their interests are being compromised by the activities of the other group.
To mitigate these conflicts, governments and other stakeholders have implemented various measures, including land-use planning, community engagement, and mediation to resolve disputes. However, solutions remain elusive, and conflicts continue to arise in many parts of the country.
From 2017 to 2022 ZELA implemented a Trocaire funded project in Insiza, Bikita, Gutu and Matobo. ZELA was part of the consortium as a technical partner offering technical legal support. This included the capacity building on legal reforms, advocacy and lobbying and facilitating multistakeholder engagement forums.The project objective was to promote a Rights Based Approach to the Utilisation and Management of Natural Resources by Smallholder Farmers especially women in Rural Areas. During the formative years of the project ZELA conducted a study to understand the challenges faced by farmers. Farmer-Miner conflicts were cited as a problem although the problem varies in gravity and the types of mining operations. Most farmers always live with the fear of displacement and loss of agricultural land if minerals are discovered in their area. After having noted the conflict ZELA played a role in trying to resolve the conflict In Insiza. Conflict resolution in natural resource governance involves a range of approaches and conflict resolution addressing and resolving conflicts related to the management and use of natural resources. Some key strategies for conflict resolution in natural resource governance include:
Dialogue and negotiation: One of the most effective ways to resolve conflicts is through dialogue and negotiation. This involves bringing together stakeholders with different perspectives and interests to discuss the issues at hand and work towards mutually acceptable solutions.
Mediation: Mediation involves the use of a neutral third party to facilitate communication and negotiation between conflicting parties. This approach can be particularly useful when there are high levels of tension or mistrust between the parties involved in the conflict.
Legal and regulatory frameworks: Strong legal and regulatory frameworks can help to prevent conflicts by establishing clear rules and standards for the management and use of natural resources. These frameworks can also provide mechanisms for resolving disputes when they do arise.
Capacity building and awareness raising: Building the capacity of stakeholders and raising awareness about natural resource governance issues can help to prevent conflicts by promoting better understanding and cooperation among different groups.
Participatory processes: Participatory approaches involve engaging stakeholders in decision-making processes related to natural resource governance, including planning, management, and monitoring.
In a effort to help the farmers and miner resolve the conflict working with the interested stakeholders that included the Rural District Council, Farmer, miners, Local NGOs and EMA, ZELA used a combination of the above-mentioned conflict resolution strategies to help resolve the conflict in Insiza District. Several dialogue sessions were hosted with both farmers and miners in attendance, ZELA conducted several capacity building workshops and invited both farmers and miners for participatory stakeholder engagements, at forums such as the Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba to share their views and engage with decision making stakeholders. At project closure a lot had been achieved by the Insiza community to help them deal with farmer – miner conflict. Environmental Sub Committees with both farmers and miners had been established and will be receiving support from the RDC to help them fulfil their mandate. Farmers are now actively participating in environmental monitoring and more miners are complying with the law, fencing their pit, and reducing the cutting down on tree.
While dialogue and negotiation played a role and eased the tension between the two parties in Insiza more still needs to be done to help communities deal with the problem around Zimbabwe. The mines and mineral bill need to be passed to enable traditional leaders and law enforcing agencies to play a role in the reduction of farmer miner conflict. Overall, effective conflict resolution in natural resource governance requires a combination of these and other strategies, tailored to the specific context and dynamics of the conflict at hand.