Agriculture faces collapse

HARARE - Zimbabwe's agricultural sector faces collapse after its growth was recently slashed from the projected 1,8 percent to a negative 9,9 percent due to an El Nino-induced drought and lack of investment.

This was after government this week revised maize output from the projected 1,2 million metric tonnes (mt) to 450 000 mt, while tobacco production is expected to be 170 000 tonnes, significantly below the 198 900 tonnes recorded in the previous year.

Experts say the sector, which is slowly recovering from the chaotic and often violent land reform programme that displaced over 4 400 white commercial farmers and resettled nearly 400 000 landless peasants, is being stifled by bad policies.

“The current challenges must be blamed on first, government policy on the sector,” agronomist Chrispen Mpofu said.

“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, emotionally enacted as justification of a runaway land reform process.

“The policy frameworks lacked content and specifics on investment and the role of parastatals in driving home the need to maintain or increase productivity of the sector,” he added.

Mpofu noted that the policy frameworks also lacked technical support, processes and systems to support implementation.

“The frameworks lacked alternatives and options in light of climate change and subsequent change in weather patterns,” he said.

Zimbabwe is facing one of the worst droughts in 30 years following the devastating effects of a drought that ravaged the southern African region, leaving at least 28 million people in desperate need of food aid.

However, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said in view of the current drought, government has put in place drought mitigation measures under the auspices of the drought mitigation programme.

“The objective of this programme is to mitigate the effects of drought in the country by resuscitating irrigation schemes which require minimal capital investments.

“Targeted works include procurement and installation of pumps, replacement of transformers, erecting of centre pivots, trenching of pipeline routes as well as installation of mainline pipes,” he said.

“In this regard, an amount of $350 000 was availed towards the rehabilitation of 16 Irrigation Schemes, targeting a total of 1 064 hectors,” Chinamasa added.

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