Zimbabwe's New Agriculture Policy Expected To Maximise Food Production

By Ruth Nabakwe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 31, 2002

The ongoing land resettlement programme in Zimbabwe expected to maximise agricultural production in the country was the launching pad of an ambitious new agricultural policy geared towards turning the Southern Africa country into the breadbasket of Africa in the coming decades an official has said.

Zimbabwean embassy official Sylvestre Maunganidze said in an interview centered on the ongoing land distribution programme that Zimbabwe had made projections geared towards self sufficiency in food production in the coming years.

"We realised that unless we maximised production we would not be able to survive the onslaught of the West," Maunganidze who is head of political affairs at the Zimbabwe mission said.

He charged that the West was waiting to pounce on every mistake that Zimbabwe would make.

"We are not a perfect society but we know that there is a group of people outside of Zimbabwe who would only be waiting to pounce on our mistakes but the only response we have for them is to ask them to come back in two years and they would see a transformed Zimbabwe," he opined.

He said such optimism was derived from a realization that Zimbabweans have what it takes in terms of the necessary resources to develop their country. He urged Zimbabweans to have confidence in their capacity to turn around their country’s economy.

The official said the Zimbabwean government had realised that for the last 20 years the country had made a fundamental mistake of tying itself to the political economies of the West.

"We thought we had good partners abroad and did not know that we were killing ourselves with this dependency, now we are winning ourselves from dependency and we want to be independent both politically and economically."

According to him Zimbabwe would strive to be a competitor and equal partner on the global market and not "an appendage of the industrial capitalist system".

If President Mugabe is to be hated by the West, he would be hated for fighting for what is in the best interest of Africa and Africans.

Today President Mugabe’s government has defined land as a strategic resource of the country that had to be utilised for maximum production.

Farmers who failed to develop their land would be put to task or fined for it as government had already put in place support systems to boost the necessary capacity for production.

By the rainy season in October, Zimbabwe expects all farmers to be on the land ready for farming.

Before the introduction of the current land acquisition policy some three-quarters of the best lands belonged to about 4500 whites of British origin that made up less than one percent of the estimated 13 million population.

The majority of Zimbabweans rely on land for their livelihood and in order for them to gain something from their country, there is need for government to ensure they go back to the land.

"Our repossession of the land and our resettlement programme is not intended to deprive whites of land but to redistribute the land so that we have an equitable distribution that would satisfy the majority of the people," he said.

The Zimbabwe government had embarked on a legal framework of land repossession as spelt out under the country’s Constitutional Land Acquisition Act.

The evolving new agriculture policy in Zimbabwe of one farmer one farm has set in motion government committees that oversee the distribution of land to enable an effective use of it.

"Zimbabwe is not taking back its land just for the love of it but out of a desire to make use of it in a more productive sense because up until now the majority of the land that was under white commercial farming was under-utilised," Maunganidze said.

One individual farmer at times had ten farms and the size of each farm would be about 3,000 hectares."Imagine one farmer owning 30,000 hectares of land while in the countryside where majority of people live the biggest farm would be 3 hectares, so that unfair distribution caused a lot of political and social tensions," he added.

The new policy has led government to be cognisant of the need to re-define the farmer who had to be either male or female as well as the size of farm he/she should have in a bid to achieve social peace as well as the intended target of meeting the food needs of all Zimbabweans.

Under the new land farms policy has been sized up and defined according to five geographical regions. Region One was categorised as the best area with good climate, rainfall and high quality soils.

Unlike in the past when a single white farmer owned 3,000 hectares of land most of which under-utilised, today the maximum size of the biggest farm is projected to be 250 hectares that is considered by government to be enough for a farmer to produce and sell.

In order to empower the poor farmers to have capacity to produce, the Zimbabwean government, through the ministry of local government, has developed a scheme in which the local government ministry will oversee the management of the 57 districts in Zimbabwe.

Under the scheme the ministry of local government given the responsibility to distribute farm implements, capital and seeds to farmers in the 57 districts who lacked these resources.

A District Development Fund will enable the distribution of tractor units to farmers.

Technical expertise to farmers is provided through the ministry of agriculture under a programme known as the Agriculture, Technical and Extension services scheme (Agritex). These support services are expected to empower the newly resettled farmers with the necessary skills that would enable them to take off.

On the current drought and critical food situation facing the Southern Africa region, the Zimbabwe official said the crisis that Zimbabwe had gone through in the recent past would make the country a better place tomorrow.

"We have now started counting on ourselves and asking ourselves what is it that we can get out of this country?. Zimbabwe is drought prone, we can count every two or three seasons and there is drought, if there is no drought there will be floods".

However, Zimbabwe is endowed with rivers which Mugabe’s government expects to harness in its efforts to counter the mitigating effects of drought.

Come rainy season, most of these rivers were in floods but two months later they will be dry generating a drought situation

Part of government plans include harvesting the waters during floods through a well-organised irrigation system. Already dam construction was underway as part of efforts to improve the storage of water.

Most of the existing dams in the country are today three-quarters full but the irrigation systems are not yet fully developed to take advantage of such waters for crop production.

Masvingo, one of the driest provinces in the country in the South has embarked on an irrigation programme covering some 100,000 hectares of land in a bid to make use of such waters.

"Irrigation is part of government response to dealing with the drought situations to improve food production, we realised that we can not always rely on foreign Aid or foreign donations of food come drought... two years from now whether we have drought or not we project that Zimbabwe should be self-sufficient in food production".

From Masvingo Province alone the government projects a food yield of 3 million tons of maize a year. The overall consumption in Zimbabwe is estimated at less than 2.4 million tons of maize a year.

The new agriculture policy in Zimbabwe has moved away from past practice when government relied solely on the rainy season to plant crops. When the rains failed, food production was impeded but this trend is expected to be a thing of the past as a vigorous irrigation programme takes hold in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s efforts to boost food production in the country is being boosted by support from various countries including China. A Chinese delegation that visited the country recently engaged in serious discussions with government on ways to support Zimbabwe’s irrigation programmes for enhanced agricultural production.

"For anybody to think that the drought that Zimbabwe was facing now was as a result of President Robert Mugabe’s skewed political programme was foolhardy because Zimbabwe was not the only country facing drought in the Southern Africa region where more than six countries were going through the same spell yet they were not having any land resettlement programmes".

"To associate a natural disaster with somebody’s political programme is to say the least, absurd," Maunganidze said.

In a bid to enhance food storage capacity Zimbabwe’s Grain Marketing Board is expected to continue to play a leading role as purchaser of the grain from the producer for sell as well as storage.

Enough storage facilities exist in the country to handle the projected increase in food production.

Zimbabwe’s economy is 75 percent agricultural with three quarters of industry in the country agriculturally driven. The struggle to liberate Zimbabwe is anchored on a desire to get back its land that was unfairly taken but today Zimbabwe’s new land policy is expected to transform the political liberation into economic liberation that is long overdue.

"Unless Zimbabweans own their own means of production, unless they went back to the land in order to grow something (to sell then the political independence they got might as well be null and void because there is no need to have political independence when you have no economic independence."

Today, Maunganidze said, Zimbabwe is on the second phase, the "second Chimurenga" (war of economic liberation) that would liberate Zimbabweans from poverty in ways that ensure the country can feed itself and export beyond Africa.

A loan scheme given to farmers through a new agriculture bank "Agri-bank" will also empower Zimbabwean farmers with credit to enable them become full fledged participants in the Zimbabwean economy and not spectators.

Contrary to certain media reports that all the white farmers were resisting and not cooperating with government in the land acquisition programme, Maunganidze said that only a small group of "hard-core Rhodesians" who are refusing as they were politically motivated to derail the whole programme because they had some master outside Zimbabwe to answer to.

The majority of white farmers have voluntarily given up their farms for no compensation at all, he added.

"The white commercial farmers are not a homogenous group and there are many who would want to co-exist and are now in serious business, they are not even bothered about the politics being thrown all over the world”.

Maunganidze also talked about Lessons to be derived from the Zimbabwe land issue for other African countries.

"The Zimbabwe situation speaks boldly in the face of every well meaning African…, to own your own means of production, to own Africa, to endeavour to be independent, to endeavour to be able not only to support yourself but to be competitive on the global market and the answer does not come from relying on some foreign aid or some foreign power, the answer lies squarely in how we as Africans introspect, look within ourselves, dig within ourselves for strength and come out with solutions that will help Africa".

Maunganidze challenged Africans saying anyone who thought that solutions to Africa’s problems lay somewhere in outer space or outside the continent was a big dreamer". Anybody who thought that another continent out there was waiting to assist Africa was a big dreamer and not worth the name Africa.

To take its destiny into its hands, Zimbabwe also planned to diversify its economy through developing the mining, tourism and banking sectors including other service industries. To its advantage, Zimbabwe boasts of a highly skilled manpower capable of turning around the country’s economy.

What the government expects from its population is a sense of motivation and drive, the pride and dignity in oneself to produce for Zimbabwe. "As long as the attitude is correct, Zimbabwe will be one of the best countries around”, Maunganidze said.

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