By Rusty Markham
The agriculture sector has become a point of weakness in the Zimbabwean economy where over five million Zimbabweans are food-insecure despite billions in public funds being invested in the sector.
Even in a season of good rains, the country continues to produce way below two tonnes per hectare compared to countries like Zambia and Malawi.
The farming model is terrible, outdated and archaic.
The introduction of command agriculture more than anything has been a cover up for patronage networks of the military State. Agriculture has become a cover up for State capture and shady transactions between state actors and cartels.
Parliament exposed the rot in the past week when it was revealed that just under USD 3 Billion was siphoned from treasury under the guise of funding command agriculture. Both the permanent secretary and the head of accounts in the Ministry of Agriculture expressed ignorance about
The money amounted to 75% percent of the total national annual budget. That 75% can disappear in the name of agriculture is unacceptable.
Then came the corruption around the sale of command agriculture maize at an exaggerated price of 390 per tonne at GMB. The pricing was meant to benefit Zanu PF politicians who are maize producers while bankrupting the country through GMB.
Zimbabwe’s approach to agriculture is not only ineffective, with outdated models but also a dog’s breakfast. Those in Zanu PF are behaving in the sector like catfish mudding the water then loot in the chaos.
At the end of the day there is no food security, there is no response to climate change and the State is bankrupted by cartels colluding with those in power.
To solve the crisis in Agriculture, the MDC restates the following:
1. Bringing finality to the land question, at the present moment people are still fighting over land there is evidence to this effect. We restate that there must be a land audit to ascertain ownership and productive capacity as well as issuing of title to current occupants.
2. Financing agricultural infrastructure: In order to fully empower the newly resettled farmers there is need for seasonal, capital and land loans which can be provided by commercial banks as well as the Rural Development Fund.
3. Agricultural markets: It is crucial that markets for agricultural produce be restored. The current situation in the tobacco industry is unfortunate, must be curbed. Marketing for cereal produce such as maize, wheat must be given a priority.
4. Investment in equipment: A functional and organized farm must have access to farming mechanisation for tillage, harvesting and transportation, storage will be vital for driving agriculture.
5. Harnessing water resources for agriculture: More than 80% of our arable land rely on rain-fed farming but do not have access to proper irrigation facilities.
6. Access to agricultural inputs: There must be incentives for local blending of compound fertilizers, and exploration of long-term opportunities for cheaper and more sustainable domestic production. Financial support for seed and fertilizer production must be transparently and inclusively offered while constraints on the revival of local input supply industries must be removed.
7. Irrigation intensification and expansion: Improved irrigation is critical to increasing agricultural productivity. Investments in irrigation and a shift from dry land to irrigated agriculture is required.
8. Ensure both use and exchange value for land through the introduction of a regulated land market.
Rusty Markham is the MDC Secretary for Agriculture