The European Union has availed US$29 million to boost food security and farming of nutritious crops by smallholder farmers in the next four years.The money will be used for projects in crop and livestock production, small-scale irrigation, support to extension and research and the establishment of public private community partnerships.
Officially launching the agricultural fund, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made expressed gratitude to the Food and Agriculture Organisation and European Union for the support to various agricultural projects.
"FAO and its developmental partners have complemented Government in the recovery of the agriculture sector through various livelihoods programmes," he said.
"This year we celebrate the African Union year of agriculture. Government has also come up with the Zim-Asset that spells four pillars of development with food and nutrition being a critical component of the document."
Minister Made said despite the EU gesture, Zimbabwe remained under sanctions as long as President Mugabe was still embargoed by the bloc.
"Although the EU removed other ministers from the sanctions list, this has no impact if the Head of State remained under sanctions," he said.
"It is a fact that Zimbabwe remains under sanctions as long as President Mugabe remains on that list. As long as the Commander-in-Chief is under sanctions, we will never be treated as isolated individuals since he encapsulates from that."
Head of the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe Mr Aldo Dell'Ariccia said the money was aligned to priorities of the Zimbabwean Government.
"The project is aligned to the national policy of Zim-Asset," he said. "We formulated this because it reflects the need to develop the link between agriculture, exports and the manufacturing sector.
"These projects will empower thousands of people in rural communities to tackle the problem of food insecurity and link them to the markets with the ultimate purpose to transform small-scale farming into a viable business."
Mr Dell"Ariccia said the allocation reinforced EU's commitment to the people of Zimbabwe to achieve a more prosperous future through the agricultural sector.
Under the programmes, FAO will implement the smallholder irrigation support programmes in Manicaland and Matabeleland South worth US$8,2 million.
A further US$9,6 million will be used to increase household food and nutrition security through the commercialisation of an integrated and sustainable livestock sector in the Nkayi and Lupane districts.
The Netherlands Development Organisation will implement an integrated food, nutrition and income security programme for Binga and Hwange with US$5,5 million.
A further US$5,5 million will be used by Welthungerhilfe for the sustainable intensification of market-based agriculture project in Gokwe South.