The agricultural sector is poised for another disastrous season owing to lack of adequate preparations, says the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU). Executive director Paul Zakaria said the major factor affecting the sector was lack of adequate funding, which hindered preparations.
Of the $1,8 billion required to fund the sector for the coming season, a mere $200 million was finding its way to support agriculture- related activities. Government said it poured $500 million into the sector last year, but failed to harvest expected yields.
“The interest is there, the will is there but the resources to fulfil the wishes and the will are very limited. Funding for agriculture is not at the levels that are expected. We need about $1,8 billion to finance a normal agricultural farming season in Zimbabwe. But at the moment we are hovering about $100 million to $200 million,” said Zakaria.
He cited a depressed market, low competitive capacity, the inadequacy of inputs and non-availability of financial resources as the major factors affecting agricultural preparedness and production. The inputs that have been mobilised for next season can only support a small fraction of the sector, he said.
Quizzed whether the $98 million agricultural envelope from Brazil and other funding packages from the European Union (EU) were enough to breathe life back into the sector, Zacharia categorically stated that Zimbabwe’s agri-sector needed a total package to be successfully resuscitated.
“In financing agriculture we need a total package. These funds are falling far too short in terms of the financing of recovery of agriculture. Recovery of agriculture speaks to the issues to do with infrastructure development – for instance, you need roads. We need our railroads to be upgraded. We need to makes sure that our marketing institutions themselves have been re-capacitated. The GMB should be able to buy grain from the farmers,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s agro-based economy started declining following the year 2000 chaotic land “reform” programme that displaced close to 4 000 commercial farmers. The decline has been exacerbated by the fact that most of the politically well-connected people who took over the farms did not have any farming expertise, while war veterans who benefitted had no financial muscle to fund production.
The country went on to lose its Bread Basket of Africa status. The situation was further worsened by attempts by government to reposition the country from an agro-based economy to a mining-based one, which has brewed disastrous results.
Following this rude awakening, government has made noises about reverting back to the old system. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, John Mangudya, said government had reprioritised agriculture in the 2015/16 farming season by extending financial aid – unlike the previous years where they tried to rope in all farmers, government will this season work with a few productive farmers only.
He said they would unveil an agriculture support scheme worth $160 million to 2 000 productive farmers. “Let’s have clusters in agriculture of people who are performing. As RBZ, we are saying we want to intervene in agriculture through the banks. So we need to identify winners, people who are serious farmers, who are producing for the country and see how best to capacitate them,” he said.
Mangudya said the RBZ would soon engage with all the farmers unions – ZFU, Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU), and Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) – to recommend names of productive farmers under their unions.
He added that they have targeted 2 000 farmers using the 6 tonnes under 100 hectares per farmer ratio.