At least 20,000 displaced people in Zimbabwe reportedly risk being denied food aid by the government, which is trying to force them to work in a sugar cane farm.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Zimbabwean army has relocated 3,000 families from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin, 72 km south of Masvingo Province, to Nuanetsi Ranch, a camp on a sugar cane farm.

The displaced people allege the floods were artificially induced so authorities could forcibly evict people and hire them as low-paid workers on the sugar cane farm.

The families were not consulted about their relocation site, as required by international standards, and are now being forced to live in the camp where they can only grow sugar cane for a living.

During the relocation, which occurred in February 2014, thousands of people lost household property and livestock. Thousands of children no longer have access to education.

"These 3,000 families have been displaced under questionable circumstances and dumped in a place where their only alternative is to be cheap labor for Zimbabwe's ruling party," said Tiseke Kasambala, southern Africa director at HRW.

"These families have a right to compensation for their property and to voluntary resettlement elsewhere in the country, to earn a living as they see fit."

Without access to a livelihood, the displaced people have been relying on food provided by international aid agencies, which is distributed by the government.

The minister for local government, Ignatious Chombo, has warned the displaced families to accept relocation, if they want food assistance.

"We should make it clear that food assistance will only be given to those families who agree to move to their permanent plots, because we need to decongest Chingwizi temporary camp," Chombo said.

Nuanetsi Ranch is severely overcrowded, with each family allocated a one-room tent regardless of the number of family members, HRW warned.

"The Zimbabwean government has an obligation to ensure that displaced people have food, clothing, and shelter," Kasambala said.

"But when food aid is turning up in local markets instead of in the tents of the displaced, then the responsible local officials need to be investigated."