90pc Zim farmers lack collateral

HARARE - Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) says the decline in agriculture production is due to most farmers’ lack of collateral.

Edward Dune, ZNFU’s executive director told Parliament this week that close to 90 percent of farmers in the country are in need of security to enhance their chances of borrowing for investment purposes.

“Local investors may shun to invest where the tenure is not secure. How many farmers have acquired those 99-year leases? Perhaps you will find it’s less than 10 to 15 percent of those who have benefitted from land reform,” he said.

“We are actually advocating for the expedition of the issuance of those 99-year leases. We appreciate the presence of those leases,” Dune added.

Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector has been on a serious decline since the turn of the millennium when the government embarked on a chaotic land reform programme in 2000 aimed at redressing colonial land imbalances.

More than 4 000 commercial farmers were displaced paving way for more than 400 000 landless peasants.

However, due to lack of financial support, limited knowledge and corruption, Zimbabwe has been struggling to feed itself.

This year alone, government is expected to import 700 000 tonnes of maize to avert food shortages as maize production for the 2014/15 agricultural season is forecast to decline by over 500 000 to 950 000 tonnes due to a prolonged dry spell.

Dune said the issuance of 99-year leases has been slow resulting in most farmers failing to secure funding to develop their farms.

This comes as last month government announced the suspension of the 99-year leases to beneficiaries of the controversial land reform programme after companies contracted to conduct farm surveys pulled out over a $6 million debt.

Under normal circumstances, the Lands ministry is mandated to engage the Surveyor General’s department to survey properties of lease applicants.

However, the department is financially crippled and the Lands ministry has had to resort to private companies to undertake the task.

“We have a big challenge with regards to the issuance of 99-year leases because of our inability to carry out surveys.

“The Surveyor General’s department has not been operating properly for a while now. As a result, we have been using private surveyors and this costs a lot of money. They are now reluctant to work with us, resulting in work slowing down,” said Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora last month.

Agriculture experts assert that the number of qualified surveyors does not commensurate with the 4 100 000 hectares of arable land in Zimbabwe as of 2011 requiring attention.

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