The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: U.S.$2,4 Billion Agric Fund Launched

Thousands of farmers are set to benefit from a US$2,4 billion agriculture fund launched at the Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare yesterday.

The fund is a joint venture initiative between a local organisation Lasch Enterprises and the Zanu-PF Youth League with assistance from various ministries, to help address youth unemployment and food security.

Beneficiaries include all farmers in crop and livestock production.

The intervention came after a realisation that agricultural production was being affected by lack of funding as most farmers did not have collateral required by financial institutions.

Other farmers also had problems settling the loans and ended up losing their property.

Beneficiaries will not receive money, but will get Government and financial institutions guarantee to access seed, fertilisers, chemicals and livestock inputs from manufacturers.

Officially launching the fund, Zanu-PF secretary for administration Cde Didymus Mutasa said the programme was in line with the Zim-Asset which was aimed at ensuring household and national food security and nutrition.

"Nowadays the party leads Government and the two should work hand in hand," he said. "Zanu-PF initiated Zim-Asset and now it is a Government programme.

"Beneficiaries of this fund should boost food production so that we stop importing maize from Zambia and Malawi. Beneficiaries of the project should also go into value addition to maximise profits.

"We are our own liberators. Through hard work we were able to overcome sanctions imposed on us since 1999 by people who wanted to reverse gains of the liberation struggle. They will never succeed."

Cde Mutasa urged youths who did not own land to be patient as their opportunity would come soon.

"Some youths are complaining that they did not benefit from the land reform," he said. "Land is limited, but your chance will come and you can own land. This programme will also assist youths to be industrialists."

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said the ministry was willing to work with beneficiaries in the implementation of the programme.

"You should work with the ministry's parastatals and departments, especially Agritex, in the selection of beneficiaries and veterinary services on livestock issues," he said.

"We are in the process of reviewing imports so that we do not import commodities already on the market. I am willing to put stringent measures on food imports as long as there is a constant supply from local farmers."

Lasch Enterprises managing director Mr Evans Zininga urged farmers to pay back loans so that the fund would be sustainable.

"Some farmers have a tendency of not paying back loans and this has affected the effectiveness of empowerment projects," he said.

"Farmers should learn to bank money so that it circulates within the formal sector.

"The country is faced with liquidity crunch. If the money circulates within the formal sector, banks will have money and farmers will also have capital for farming."

The projects will be monitored and evaluated.

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