We need to grow food

HARARE - One in four Zimbabweans living in rural areas faces a looming food crisis following erratic rains last season, particularly in the southern districts.

In some places rains came too late, in others not at all and yet in others, there was too much rain.

The cumulative effect of too much rain or the lack of it was devastating.

The United Nations World Food Programme says food handouts will start next month, and will be scaled up until the next harvests in March next year.

About 1,4 million people out of a total population of 13 million received food aid last year.

Although erratic rains have been blamed for poor harvests, the high cost of seed, and fertiliser added to a difficult season.

Zimbabwe’s food woes became pronounced after the chaotic land redistribution programme of 2000.

Although many felt land redistribution was long overdue, the nature of the distribution destroyed agriculture, the backbone of the economy.

Zimbabwe changed from being a regional breadbasket to a regional basket case. The land grab was followed by a decade-long economic decline.

Production of tobacco declined from a peak of 237 kg to a low of 49 million kg by 2008, just before the dollaristion of the economy.

Although tobacco production has picked up, the golden leaf has proved extremely attractive to small-scale farmers who have traditionally grown the staple crop maize.

Because of the failure of the Grain Marketing Board, to pay farmers promptly, many have switched from maize to tobacco where returns are much higher and are disbursed on time.

The price of a kg of tobacco at nearly $4\kg does not begin to compare with the price of maize at $0.35\ kg — a major disincentive for growing the country’s staple food.

Cotton is also suffering the same fate as maize as farmers feel the lint price of $,030 \kg is not worth it.

Unless government wakes up to the reality of the situation, farmers will continue to move to tobacco farming at the expense of the other two crops. And for a food crop like maize, this is disastrous.

A country which does not grow its own food will always have to depend on other countries and this can be dangerous.

This year, government has made an arrangements to import 150 tonnes of grain from Zambia, a country which used to import food from Zimbabwe and has benefitted from farmers whose land was disposed in Zimbabwe.

With the majority of Zimbabweans living on less than a dollar a day, they will not afford to buy the food even if its available in shops.

Government must give incentives to farmers to grow maize and other food crops and stop this humiliating bowl-in-hand attitude to feel the food deficit gap.

After all, sovereignty must be about feeding ourselves.

The land is there, the farmers are there, what is needed is the incentive and there’s no doubt farmers will respond.

Comments (1)

True that. Incentivise maize and see if we dont respond.

Murimimutsava - 13 September 2013

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