Zim not ready for agric season

HARARE - The 2014/2015 farming season is already upon us and this year, like in previous years, the country is not adequately prepared for summer cropping.

Zimbabwe’s agriculture production has been declining since the demise of commercial farming in the country precipitated by the chaotic land reform programme instigated by the  Zanu PF-led government at the turn of the millennium.

Since the year 2000, government has tried unsuccessfully to prop up resettled farmers by providing cheap and sometimes free inputs as a way of increasing agricultural production.

However, the “new” farmers have failed to deliver and in turn blamed a plethora of challenges including lack of collateral, inadequate  funding and unreliable weather conditions.

While the reasons for the collapse of productivity are both varied and complex, the simple truth remains the country is unable to feed itself. We strongly believe the current challenges must be blamed on government’s policy.

Several policy frameworks on agriculture have been announced over a period of 10 years but these have had little impact because they were politically-motivated and emotionally-enacted as justification of a runaway land redistribution process.

The policy frameworks lack content and specifics on investment and role of parastatals in driving home the need to maintain or increase productivity in the sector. It can also be argued that the policy frameworks also lack technical support, processes and systems to support implementation.  The frameworks lack alternatives and options in light of climate change and subsequent change in weather patterns.

Like most sectors in the economy, agriculture is also facing serious challenges of technical expertise. For the past decade or so, agricultural experts have left the country due to lack of motivation and lack of acknowledgement for their contribution.

Indeed, Zimbabwe at one time had the best organised extension and research services in Africa, but underfunding and political interference caused the collapse of these services.

There is an unfortunate belief that free inputs can help resuscitate the sector. It is wrong thinking. Free inputs will not sustain the sector.

Malawi is an example where input subsidy was too expensive for the government and relied heavily on donor support. When donors pulled the plug, the sector virtually collapsed.

Government must stop distributing free inputs but must provide farmers with investment tools in the form of transferable certificate of  ownership on land to enable farmers to access finance.

Farming is a  business and must be taken as such.


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