via Davies: Buying and losing farm to Mugabe – New Zimbabwe 30/06/2015
Ashanti Coffee is well established in South Georgian Bay, Canada, but its roots come from Zimbabwe.
David Wilding-Davies is the founder of the Ashanti Coffee franchise and has penned a book about his experience farming in Zimbabwe from 1998-2005 entitled My Cattle Look Thin: Life on a Farm in Zimbabwe.
Wilding-Davies, who now lives in Thornbury, purchased a 1,000 acre coffee farm in Zimbabwe in the 1990s and moved to the country with his wife and children.
“I always wanted to be a farmer,” he said. “It was like a childhood thing.”
Wilding-Davies said land was affordable, labour was affordable, the soil was good for farming and there was a well-organized farming association.
They purchased a farm that was in receivership and had a lot of help from workers who had been in the area their entire lives.
This was 11 years after Robert Mugabe had been elected president and the economy was booming.
“At that point, Zimbabwe was doing really well as a country,” he said. “When I moved there was really a sense of going forward with the country.
“[Coffee is] grown in the most beautiful part of the country. It was a really great place to be.”
Several years after his family arrived, things in Zimbabwe started to unravel. The economy took a downturn and Mugabe was hearing criticism from citizens.
“The country started to rapidly descend into this chaotic complete breakdown of law and order,” he said. “People really started to feel betrayed by his government.”
Wilding-Davies said Mugabe introduced land reform program, which he claimed was taking farmland from the white farmers.
Wilding-Davies disagrees, suggesting the motive of Mugabe, was to damage the black farmers who had rallied against him. This led to the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, being created.
He said in 2005, the family lost a third of their land, including their head of operations.
“Very violently and very illegally,” he said.
“They tried to murder our farm manager and they had a stoppage in the weapon and while they were clearing the stoppage, him and myself were able to escape through the coffee.”
Since the land reform program was introduced, 4,500 farms have been reduced to about 100.
During this time, Wilding-Davies, kept notes on the situation and had been planning to write a book for several years.
“I had all of these notes, that was the starting point,” he said.
The book tells Wilding-Davies story from buying the farm in Zimbabwe to losing it to the Mugabe regime.
He is holding a book signing on July 2 at Ashanti Coffee in Collingwood.
This article was originally published by Simcore.com