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Small signs of life at Harare Show

THE Harare Agricultural Show is showing signs of life after being decimated in the wake of President Robert Mugabe’s controversial land redistribution policies.

Officials and farmers said on Tuesday they were optimistic the showcase of the country’s farming sk

ills was recovering from the disruption linked to the government’s seizures of farms from mainly white farmers.

Although there was little business being done on the second day of the exhibition in Harare, most stalls that had lain empty in past years displayed a fair variety of grains, vegetables, fruit, livestock and farm machinery.

“There is an improvement this year not just in terms of the number of visitors to the show but also in terms of exhibitions. I have been talking to exhibitors in the agricultural service — most of them small-scale commercial farmers — and their exhibits are overwhelming,” said show spokesman Daniel Muhau.

“The livestock section is also resuscitating now and there is a lot of activity down there. I can say generally something is happening,” he added.

The once-thriving annual show has faced collapse since 2000, with very few products on display as the agricultural sector went into freefall due to drought and the disruption caused by Mugabe’s drive to forcibly redistribute white-owned commercial farms to the country’s black majority.

Critics say Mugabe’s government largely failed to equip the new farmers with adequate training and resources to fully utilise the land, leading to a 60% decline in the sector in the last six years.

“We have not had cattle here for some time since the white commercial farmers left the farms . . . but now it looks like our black people can now see we have got to do it for ourselves,” said livestock farmer Samuel Chimuka, who was at the show for the first time to display his cattle, sheep and goats.

“I know the white farmers used to do better than what we are doing but this is how they started and we are also starting. I am very optimistic about the future,” Chimuka said.

President Festus Mogae of neighbouring Botswana echoed that sentiment on Monday when during a visit he endorsed Zimbabwe’s controversial farm seizures. Mogae predicted his neighbour’s agricultural production would soon rebound, but urged Harare to honour its pledge to ensure productive land use.

Mogae said he had recently told a meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation that southern Africa’s former bread basket —which has relied on food imports in recent years — would soon become one of the top farming nations in the world.

Harare says agriculture is on a firm path to recovery and has forecast 1,8 million tonnes of the staple maize from the 2005/06 season, which would largely meet domestic needs for the first time since 2001.

Food agencies, however, see a much smaller crop and a need for continued imports from South Africa. — Reuter.

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