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Zimbabwe's agricultural prowess - SAPES Seminar
Makoni Muchemwa, Kubatana.net
April 29, 2010
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As part of their
ongoing policy dialogue series SAPES
Trust hosted a discussion entitled: Restoring Zimbabwe's
agricultural prowess - What is to be done. Simon Pazvakavambwa,
agriculturist, and former Permanent Secretary of Agriculture presented
at the seminar. Robby Mupawose, agriculturist, former Secretary
of Agriculture and a prominent farmer in his own rights and member
of various boards including NECF and Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco, chaired
Join the SAPES
discussion series every other Thursday from 5pm-7pm. For more information,
From 1990 to
2000 we had a lull in resettlement. Very little was happening. We
spent a lot of time crossing the "t's" and dotting
the "i's". We seemed unable to go further than
we had before. Then in 2000 with the Fast Track Land Resettlement
Programme, things started moving. But also we lost a lot of opportunities.
We lost our planning capacity; we lost an aspect of control. In
the early resettlement, we had managed to plan rural service centres
and where schools would go and so on. In the later years during
the so-called "Jambanja" era we did not have that capacity
to do proper planning. This problem has stayed with us until today.
We took away
the initiative from the farmer, and the government became the farmer:
the provider of inputs. Most farmers sat back and said 'we
are not going to bother ourselves, we will wait for government to
provide us with the inputs and then see how things go.' And
this happened for 8 years: 2000 to 2009. At the same time we saw
a very significant politicisation of the small farmer. You could
hardly attend a meeting where politics was not the subject of discussion.
We more or less pushed aside the need to produce crops and we put
politics to the fore.
There were a
lot of emerging commercial farmers who could not be supported; either
because they were of the wrong political persuasion or the system
was not able to support them. With the marginalisation of the commercial
farmer we saw a decline in the potential of the commercial farmer
to produce. If you put the resettlement programme into perspective
and given what was happening in resettlement, it paints a very bad
picture. We were not in a position to properly plan. Even if we
had been in a position to properly plan, the outcome was always
politically biased. We have a lot of land that went into the wrong
hands specifically because there were people who had political clout,
and we allowed them - the system allowed them to sit on that land
and not produce. We still have that problem today.
One failed policy
was the government input scheme. The inputs were only provided for
the first two years, in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, and 2003 there was
a policy shift again. We saw the introduction of a number of facilities
championed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The idea behind some
of these facilities was very good, but their implementation was
problematic. We saw the productive sector facility, PSF, we saw
the Agricultural Sector Production Enhancement Facility (ASPEF),
we saw the command agriculture which was popularly know as 'Maguta',
and we saw the fuel scheme for farmers and we also saw what was
called, the Champion Farmer programme. Talking about the Champion
Farmer programme, the idea was that a number of farmers would be
selected and then they would be provided with inputs. In reality,
every farmer became selected. The number of inputs that could be
accessed was very few and we failed. So all these policy thrusts,
which were post 2000, some of them were very well meaning, but a
lot of them are responsible for our current situation right now.
We saw a collapse
in agricultural services. We boasted of a very significant research
service in the country, the infrastructure is there. We saw a collapse
of the extension capacity. We have not been able to resuscitate
extension to a level where it can truly serve the farmers. We saw
a collapse and a fragmentation of our marketing system when we moved
from the controlled marketing system, to an open marketing system.
We opened the door so wide that a lot of middlemen and other persons
came in, including people who came in to plunder our tobacco crop.
We saw a collapse of the input supply system; it was not a perfect
system. But because we went for so long under a controlled input
supply system where government was the champion we were not able
to sustain that system. Other support services also failed.
the performance of our farmers by making them dependent on a system
that we knew was not sustainable. So the first thing that we have
to do is put the initiative back on the farmer as a policy thrust.
The farmer must be responsible for sourcing and paying for their
own inputs, and then the support services can come. We need to restore
farmer viability for the main staple crops. We need to revive input
supply and marketing as a private initiative. We need to reduce
and eventually eliminate donor dependency as a policy. Donors are
very useful people, but when you depend on them in perpetuity, then
they are stifling even your own initiative. There are facilities,
and opportunities where donors can assist us, but it takes a major
policy shift for us to be able to do that.
We need to eliminate
populist production policies. I think we need a different captain
as far as leadership in agriculture is concerned. Or let me say
this, we probably need the government to take a backbench and allow
the farmers to lead with support from government. As long as we
are in a situation where we are led in whatever we do, for agriculture
it means we have no initiative of our own. That is not to say that
we have not got a government that can lead but we need to facilitate
the policies that can lead to the productive use of land.
We need to
facilitate provision of financial facilities in support of agriculture.
Here is a major problem. We have a situation now where banks are
not lending to agriculture or they are providing short-term finance.
We know that in order to produce you need a minimum of six months.
Now if banks provide you with support for three months, it means
you can't farm. If there is to be support from the financial
services sector it should be on a medium term to seasonal basis.
People are simply
buying GMO food. There is nothing wrong with GMO, but it's
the use and application of the concept that we need to control.
At a time when we don't have sufficient food there is not
reason why we can't consume GMOs. But when we start taking
GMO seed and growing it, then we have got a problem. We don't
know enough about the effects; so the more we invest in knowledge
of research and extension, the better.
We need to reform
some of the state enterprises and make them commercial. We need
to think deeply about our Grain Marketing Board (GMB). We have beautiful
infrastructure at GMB but its not working for the country. What
about Cold Storage Commission, The Pig Industry Board, Agribank
. . . have we not constrained the wings of Agribank to the extent
that it cannot fly. We have a lot to answer as far as some of these
policies are concerned.
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Duration: 1min 22sec
Date: April 29, 2010
File Type: MP3
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