Listen to farmer groups

HARARE - As the rains continue to pound on the land and peri-urban farmers working like bees in their small plots, news that the country needs to import grain to avert starvation seems a bit misplaced.

Food security has become more topical not only in Zimbabwe, but in most developing countries.

Any piece of idle land in urban areas has been turned green with mainly the maize crop, a convincing testimony that indeed individual citizens are very sensitive to issues to do with food security.

While Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of the Sadc region in terms of food production events in the past decade have seen it being  a net importer of grain from countries that once looked to it for salvation.

There has been a lot of contending views on what exactly caused the drop in maize production in the country, the easiest yet unproved and dangerous explanation is that the land redistribution programme disrupted farming activities in a negative way.

This explanation is a cheap one if other more relevant factors come into light.

By the advent of the land redistribution programme, most of the land owned by white farmers had been lying derelict with mostly absentee landowners holding the land for speculative reasons.

Most white farmers had diversified into cash crop production and value addition with most if not all of the maize being produced by small scale peasant farmers who were crammed in the increasingly infertile former Tribal Trust Lands or Native Reserves.

Those new farmers who benefited from the land redistribution exercise have very clear intentions: they are into commercial business enterprise and will certainly go for those crops that make business sense to them.

If ever they are to grow food crops, it will be for their own consumption or for stock feed much in the same way the former white farmers did.

They cannot be faulted for turning a blind eye to food production because of the nature of their business.

Those who dared venture into maize production are still licking their wounds as late payments have made their situation dire and they have become an object of ridicule by some people who cannot even weed a small garden or whose high density stands are full of weeds.

Whenever things go wrong, people always blame the powers that be because appearing powerful means catching all the blame.

What is needed are incentives to those who have always produced the food crops that country once boasted of.

If the small-holder peasant farmer is not incentivised in the same way those who grow toxic crops like tobacco then it will be a matter of what goes around comes around.

Other countries have made a deliberate policy of even promoting non-profitable but essential crops.

It might seem as if it does not make economic sense but the amount of resources that will be saved by having enough food run into millions of dollars.

What the government needs to do is very simple: it must listen to its own constituencies but hitherto listening is proving to be the most daunting task for most Third World governments.

Even if these constituencies make noise everyday nobody listens.

One such noise was made by Zimbabwe Farmers Union vice president Beream Mukwende who called upon the government to prioritise its mandate to feed the nation.

He lamented that “Resources that the country gets from tax, revenue and minerals such as diamonds should be channelled towards farmers so that they do no neglect production.”

For Mukwende it is a paradox that Zimbabwe boasts of some of the best soils in the region, but surprisingly the agro-industry is crippled by unemployment caused by increased imports.

Comments (1)

Seems logical. In the area we farm., we were allocated virgin land. No cropping was going on with the previous owner. We started of by land clearing the virgin land. We have instead increased the hectrage that was previously croppedl

peter mayor - 13 January 2014

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