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Restoring Zimbabwe's agricultural prowess - SAPES Seminar
Upenyu Makoni Muchemwa,
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 the meeting.

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Simon Pazvakavambwa

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. Listen

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. Listen

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. Listen

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. Listen

We marginalised 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. Listen

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. Listen

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. Listen

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. Listen

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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Audio File

  • Failed policies
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min 22sec
    Date: April 29, 2010
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 1.26MB

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