HARARE - Zimbabwe prides itself as an agro-based economy, yet lack of investment in the agriculture sector in the past few years exposes government’s double standards.
If the Zanu PF-led government has been sincere in its quest for an agricultural revolution when it controversially grabbed farms from white commercial farmers under a chaotic land reform exercise, then it should have invested in irrigation systems.
This year — as with any other year since the turn of the millennium — we have all learned the dangers of small amounts of rainfall that have resulted in the country experiencing perennial droughts since the year 2000.
Already, the country is facing a very devastating drought, caused by an El Nino, and more than 1,5 million people are facing starvation — according to the World Food Programme.
However, what is mind-boggling is the fact that Zimbabwe is endowed with vast water sources such as dams, rivers, swamps and lakes but the country lacks technology and knowledge to harvest rain for dry periods.
Research and experience has shown that irrigation is the most effective means of increasing and stabilising crop production.
But in Zimbabwe, over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture has been our undoing.
In this era of climate change and unreliable rainfall patterns, farmers around Africa have found irrigation to be the inescapable alternative to rain-fed agriculture.
So, it is high time we embraced irrigation not only to boost agricultural production but also to ensure that our livestock has water to drink during drought-ridden periods.
We strongly believe that reliable irrigation could also persuade risk conscious farmers, to invest in better production practices and to diversify into higher value farming systems.
At the moment, lack of closure on the land redistribution exercises and lack of title deeds for new farmers has seen most people being reluctant to invest on the land, fearing that someday they might be removed to pave way for Zanu PF bigwigs.
A lot of foreign investors are also interested to partner with local people and invest in agriculture, but with government’s flip-flopping on key economic policies such as the Indigenisation Act, and the arbitrary breaking of property rights and bilateral agreements, it would be difficult — if not outright impossible — for any right-thinking investor to inject their money into Zimbabwe.
For the past few years, we have been importing maize from Zambia to ward off hunger, yet before that Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of southern Africa.
The success of Zambia’s agricultural sector lies in embracing new farming techniques and new farmers who have a passion for farming.