Farmers' dependency syndrome hurting nation

HARARE - While the main political parties and an epidemic of previously unheard-of chancers argue about all aspects of 2013 elections, Zimbabwe’s food security is unravelling before our very eyes.  

As was in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008, food production and security has sunk to the very bottom of the national priority list as another election approaches.  

How many years of production has our country, that used to be known as the “breadbasket of Africa”, lost?
How many wasted millions or is it billions of US dollars have we wasted importing food because of political power struggles?

Thirteen years after Zanu PF’s land seizures and re-distribution, we still haven’t got it right.

In the past week Wonder Chabikwa, president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union, gave Zimbabwe shocking news about the 2013 winter wheat crop.

“Winter wheat for this year has been a dismal failure.”

He said that only 2 000 hectares of wheat had been planted by the May 25th planting deadline.

Assuming a yield of three tonnes per hectare, Zimbabwe’s farmers may produce 6 000 tonnes of wheat this winter for a country that needs 450 000 tonnes -a-year.  This year’s crop will only be enough to meet Zimbabwe’s needs for one week.

Chabikwa said the reason commercial farmers had planted such a miniscule hectarage of wheat was because there had been no government funding for the crop.

Prior to land redistribution in 2000, farmers did not get funding from the government to buy their seed, fertiliser and chemicals or to plough their fields, pay their workers and tend their crops.

Farmers borrowed money from banks using their title deeds as collateral.

This is how farming works all over the world, not through perpetual government handouts.

A report released last week by the national statistics agency titled the “Poverty and Poverty Datum Line Analysis 2011/12”, paints a dismal picture of Zimbabwe 33 years after independence.

Worse still, it provides a shameful insight into the widespread poverty of people in all rural and farming areas 13 years after Zanu PF’s redistribution of 95 percent of Zimbabwe’s commercial farms.

Authors of the Zimstat report write: “A household whose head has communal or resettlement farming as a main activity is much more likely to be poor or extremely poor when compared to a household headed by a permanent or even casual employee.”

The map at the beginning of the report is like looking through the window into hell.

Poverty levels are shown province by province in degrees of colour starting with green and descending from pink to orange and finally to deep, shameful red.

The map shows two small areas in the country where poverty is said to be less than 40 percent.

Represented on the map by the colour green, Harare centre shows 35,7 percent poverty and Bulawayo centre 34,5 percent.

Aside from those two centres there is nowhere else in the country where less than 63 percent of people are languishing in poverty: Matabeleland North 81,7 percent, Matabeleland South 70,8 percent, Mashonaland West 72,4 percent, Mashonaland Central 75,4 percent, Mashonaland East 67,0 percent; Manicaland 70,6 percent, Masvingo 63,7 percent, Midlands 67 percent.

If land reform benefitted as many people as we are told, surely poverty levels everywhere should be dropping dramatically by now.

 One of the hardest lessons in life is that no-one owes you a living.

In the case of Zimbabwe’s new farmers, it’s time to realise the farms you were given for free weren’t just for you personally to enrich yourselves, they were to grow food for the country. - Cathy Buckle

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