HARARE - Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, the MDC shadow minister for Agriculture, has called for the dismissal of Joseph Made from his position as minister of Agriculture.
In an interview with the Daily News, Nkomo said Made, who has been at the helm of Agriculture, was out of his depth and could therefore not revive the sector.
“My honest opinion is that if you want to change the agricultural sector, change the minister,” Nkomo said.
“(President Robert) Mugabe must change the minister and look for another because I believe agriculture is alright but the driver is not driving. He is sitting on the driver’s seat but he is not driving and I believe he has been there too long and has no new ideas.”
Made, who is also Mugabe’s farm manager, has always blamed perennial droughts for failure to grow enough crops to feed the nation. But recently he predicted a bumper harvest after the good rains, a claim which has been challenged by lawmakers.
“I think minister Made is fond of day dreaming,” Nkomo said. “He’s really fond of dreaming. I do not seriously believe that we will have a bumper harvest because good rains do not necessarily translate to a bumper harvest.
“There are areas where we had good rains but these good rains actually prevented the bumper harvest and if you go to the areas where Zimbabwe relies on for maize, it did not rain properly. There were good rains in areas like Masvingo, Matabeleland and Midlands where maize is not a good crop to grow.”
The former minister of Water Resources Development said a bumper harvest was far-fetched because areas popular for growing maize such as Chinhoyi did not receive adequate rains.
He said a significant amount of farm land was under utilised.
“During the days of white farmers as you drive along Harare-Bulawayo road, you would see a lot of maize but now you see nothing,” he said. “Drive along Mazowe road and Chinhoyi road going down to Chirundu and you will see nothing again. You will find that a lot of land is not being utilised.”
The MDC senator told the Daily News that he did not see how minister Made could have arrived at predicting a bumper harvest based on good rains as too much rain was sometimes detrimental to crop development.
“I don’t normally take what Made says seriously because he has told us about a bumper harvest; he has presided over the funeral of agriculture in our country for over 14 years. He is long on talk and short on delivery,” he said.
Asked how agriculture could be revived, Nkomo said there was need for government to fully empower the farmer.
“Empower the farmer once, make sure he has got his equipment but you have to negotiate a package which must be guaranteed by government with Agribank and other banks,” he said.
“Government should have a project, a scheme of arrangement where they will empower farmers who do crop production, livestock production and say this amount of money you are going to get is not for free, you pay it over five or 10 years and then the farmer is empowered.”
The MDC official’s observation comes after a senior official in the Agriculture ministry said Zimbabwe would most likely experience another poor harvest as government dismally failed to support small-holder farmers.
Government intended to supply 81 000 metric tonnes of compound D but only 47 percent of that was availed to the farmers. Only 43 percent of the 80 000 tonnes of top dressing was made available to farmers.