19 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Top Civil Servant Slams 'Cell-Phone' Farmers

A SENIOR civil servant has taken a swipe at Zanu PF youths for under-utilising farms that were seized from whites under the government's controversial land reform programme.

Manicaland Provincial Administrator, Fungai Mbetsa, was speaking at a workshop organised by the National Association for Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) to review the government's Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) programme.

In surprisingly candid remarks, Mbetsa said the youths had now turned once-productive farmland into wastelands.

He said most youths had also failed to adopt new farming methods and technologies.

"Most of our young farmers who took over farms lack innovation and expertise on farming. They want lavish lifestyles before they invest in farming," Mbetsa said.

He said most young farmers were interested in driving posh cars without investing back into farming.

"They do not have effective skills to develop their farming businesses. They need training to do research not to buy posh cars and try to live lavish lifestyles," he said.

He said Zimbabwe needed youths who were innovative so that they could help in the value addition of the country's natural resources.

"We need youths who are innovative, who can do scientific researches. We need value addition of produces by our small-scale farmers. Horticulture products are rotting in Honde Valley and why can't we bring technology for the benefit of our people," he said.

Mbetsa told the meeting that farming had gone commercial and youths must embrace new changes in agriculture.

"Farming is now a business and our young farmers must adapt to changes in technology. Our traditional ways and farming methods must always change from time to time.

"We are saying the majority of our youths and new farmers must change. Can we develop if we continue to be stuck in old methods of farming?"

Mbetsa's statement comes at a time when the Central African Building Society (CABS) says it has halted disbursement of youth empowerment loans due to a high default rate.

CABS was granting loans to youth projects under a $10 million Kurera-Ukondla Youth Empowerment Fund.

The group's managing director, Kevin Terry, recently told Parliament that they stopped disbursements in May this year and will only consider resuming after the trustees come up with a new strategy.

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