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Time to revive agricultural sector

This dire situation was further confirmed by the Minister of Agriculture and Mechanisation Joseph Made who recently announced that 500 000 hectares of the maize planted during the 2011/12 planting season have been written off.

With more than one million people facing starvation in Zimbabwe, a country that used to be the breadbasket for the Sadc region, it is surely time for some serious interventions.

Since the country’s food security status took a dive following the fast-track land reform programme, there have been many attempts to revive the agricultural sector.

Although there have been success stories here and there, the situation has been mostly sombre and many Zimbabweans continue to go hungry. Binga, Kariba and Mudzi have been observed to be worse off with over 30% of the people being food insecure.

Made blamed the food insecurity situation to poor rains. This, however, is just but a tip of the iceberg as the problem is way bigger than that.

The disaster in agriculture is owing to the fact that many programmes have failed to look at the source of the problem holistically with the aim of establishing how the country can achieve long-term sustainability and  achieve food security for every Zimbabwean while the sector once again contributes significantly to the GDP.

This, I believe, is very possible if, like Zambia and Kenya have successfully done, Zimbabwe follows through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP), a framework that offers a better direction at the moment.

CAADP, a “continental-wide movement of social transformation for African agriculture and food security”, envisions the restoration of agricultural growth and food security in Africa. A number of developmental partners are supporting the implementation of the CAADP agenda through the Multi-Donor Trust Fund and other initiatives. For instance, Africa Lead, a capacity building project of the US’ Feed the Future initiative, has held two training sessions in Zimbabwe so far to scale up on food security in support of the CAADP agenda.

Under the CAADP principles, the initiative should be country-led, that is, the responsible ministry in each participating country, after multi-stakeholder engagement, is expected to come up with an evidence-based agricultural investment plan in line with the CAADP framework.

If the CAADP agenda is planned and implemented well in Zimbabwe, I believe it would be a matter of time before agriculture, a panacea to our food shortage problems, is revived.

The key however lies in channelling energies towards strengthening the four pillars that have been established through the CAADP process to be the basis for agricultural success: extending the area under sustainable land and water management and reliable water control systems; and implementing agriculture research, technology dissemination and adoption, among the pillars.

The CAADP framework points to the need to link environmental factors to agricultural productivity as one key angle.
Among the environmental factors paid due cognisance is the need for farmers to practise sustainable land and water management and operate in a manner that does not translate to land degradation because when that happens, crop yields cannot be expected to increase.

There have been numerous reports of the “new farmers”, through detrimental farming practices, tiring the soils and clearing the land of trees, resulting in severe soil erosion and the resultant low productivity. Agro-forestry and taking up conservation farming have been identified to be among the viable solutions.

Climate change has also been identified as a factor to seriously consider as the new agricultural framework is being drafted, considering that the effects are expected to be felt more acutely in the coming years. As such, agricultural programmes would be expected to take this into account and have adaptation mechanisms put in place so that agriculture may flourish, even in the face of erratic rainfall patterns, floods, extreme hot weather conditions, and all other calamities that come with climate change.

 

By Chipo Masara

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