18 May 2017

Zimbabwe: Poor Agriculture Output Affects Zim-Asset

The Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) has failed to achieve its targets due to underperformance of the agricultural sector, a government official said last week.

Launched in 2013 as the successor to the Medium Term Plan, which was supposed to run from 2011 to 2015, Zim-Asset is anchored on four key economic sectors namely agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism.

Agriculture, which was supposed to underpin its success, has been constrained due to high input costs; the adverse effects of climate change; inadequate and obsolete farm machinery/irrigation infrastructure; limited financial support for farmers and the obtaining high interest rates.

The sector has also been affected by lack of security among black farmers, who were given land by government under agrarian reforms from 2000.

In addition, resettled farmers lack the requisite skills to carry out operations at a larger scale.

There is also substandard soil husbandry when it comes to soil moisture conservation and tillage techniques, while farmers still lacked digital connectivity to access information communication technologies.

Addressing journalists at a United Nations media workshop on development and humanitarian reporting, Anderson Chiraya, the director for implementation, monitoring and evaluation in the Office of the President and Cabinet, said while the 2016/17 agricultural season has generally been good due to high rainfalls received, the effects of years of poor rains and prolonged droughts are still being felt across the country.

"There is limited financial support for agriculture due to lack of collateral security and the accompanying high interest rates," he said.

"There is also lack of prioritised budgetary allocations that are in line with national Zim-Asset priorities and objectives," he added.

While government has come up with a draft agriculture policy framework running from 2015 to 2035 to improve the sector's performance, the document is still to be presented to Cabinet for approval.

Government is also still to finalise the formulation of a national contract farming framework, seen as a key to improving farming.

Economist, Prosper Chitambara, said it was vital for Zimbabwe to revive the agricultural sector.

"It has so much potential in terms of foreign currency generation through exports. There are strong linkages between agriculture and the rest of the economic sectors. If agriculture improves, the rest of the economy improves. If we can correct issues such as strengthening property rights and investing in rural infrastructure, I think agriculture can recover," he said.

Zim-Asset emphasises development, job creation, poverty eradication and attainment of a balance in economic transformation across the various sectors and regions of the country.

The policy also talks about the establishment of Special Economic Zones, value addition and the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund to help the entry of black Zimbabweans into the mainstream economy.

The upgrading and rehabilitation of key infrastructure are also areas of focus under the blueprint.

Chiraya acknowledged that achieving these milestones would require an enabling policy framework, strong governance and management, and collaborative efforts to attract funding, requisite capacities and meaningful participation of all citizens.

Zimbabwe

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