2015 farming season in limbo

HARARE - Incessant rains that pounded the country last week exacerbated an already difficult situation for Zimbabwe’s 2014/2015 farming season by flooding fields across the country.

The season, which began badly for farmers after the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) last year failed to pay farmers on time, has been hurtling from one challenge to another as evidenced by acute shortages of inputs.

Agriculture experts have already predicted that another disastrous season was on the cards as most farmers were battling to acquire fuel to power tractors and other agricultural implements due to a crippling liquidity crisis.

Poor rural farmers, who make the bulwark of Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector, were also recently swindled of their hard-earned cash by a Zanu PF-linked company and are now looking up to government to provide them with inputs — well after the season has already begun.

This comes as the country has been experienced perennial maize deficits in the past decade as most of the new farmers faced challenges such as erratic rains, lack of finance, equipment, seed and fertilisers.

The development has forced government and international relief agencies to import about 500 tonnes of maize annually to fill in the gap and stave off hunger. 

We believe that the country, like in the years gone by, is not prepared for a successful agricultural season as most of the land in and around the country had by late last month not been adequately prepared.

Financing is not the only problem in agriculture at the moment.

The bigger picture on the land is dominated by an apparent aberration in land-use in this country which can only be put right by a proper non-partisan land audit.

We have at the moment a poor land husbandry scenario where rural areas which are supposed to produce the bulk of the maize crop are still congested despite the so-called resettlement programme.

Prime land in natural regions one and two where new farmers were resettled has remained fallow because of multiple farm ownership and absentee owners.

In addition to the above challenges, there is still lack of highly-experienced farmers to grow on a large scale to feed the nation.

We need people that know the trade. What we are going to see at most farms are people planting enough to feed their families.

From the look of things, it seems certain that we will again be importing food this year.

We don’t see ourselves being self-sufficient soon when there is lack of proper planning. There is no finance and inputs.

This does not augur well for a successful agricultural season.

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