Zimbabwean agriculture recovery in motion




Dr John Basera

ZIMBABWE is an agrarian economy and has huge potential to produce enough for its people and surplus that can be exported to generate foreign currency. However, there is a puzzling divergence between increasing food requirements as a result of population growth and observed inadequate food production and insufficient productivity. This is posing a significant threat on national food security and is imposing unnecessary pressure on the fiscus as the country’s food import requirements increases.

Such an untenable situation has necessitated the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement to develop the Agriculture Recovery Plan (2020 – 2023) to engender the envisaged agricultural transformation agenda aimed at six outcomes: food security, import substitution, diversified exports, value addition, employment, and improved incomes and standards of living of people. The Agriculture Recovery Plan is aligned to the First Five Year National Development Strategy (NDS1).

The Agriculture Recovery Plan was endorsed by Cabinet and launched by His Excellency, the President, Mnangagwa in line with his Vision 2030 of empowering Zimbabwe and propelling all citizens into an upper middle-income status by 2030. The surest inclusive approach where no one is left behind can only be achieved through enhanced agricultural transformation. This will put the economy in good stead to usher stimulus into the rest of the economic sectors. The immediate target is to reverse the continued decline in food production more importantly in all agricultural value chains including the grains and oilseeds sector for household, national food and nutrition security. The best and smartest export is ‘not to import’ what you can competitively locally produce, hence the import substitution drive.

The Agriculture Recovery Plan is being implemented in a space where the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy broadly spells out the roadmap of ensuring that the agriculture sector achieves over US$8.2 billion Gross Agriculture Production Value by 2023.

KEY STRATEGIC INTERVENTIONS AND PROGRESS

The Agriculture Recovery Plan is underpinned by the following key strategic interventions:

  • Financial Services Sector Led Commercial Contract Farming Programme: Several banks including Agribank, CBZ and Stanbic are participating in the production of wheat, maize and soyabean among other agricultural ventures. The Ministry is keen on targeting 5 000 highly productive farmers to foster a mutual beneficial relationship which crowd-in commercial banks to support local production. In the 2020/2021 summer cropping season, 200 000 Ha were put under maize and soyabean production through the support of commercial banks.
  • Commodity Value Chain Financing Model: The Financing Model is adopted to buttress the efforts by the financial services sector by roping-in agribusinesses that depend on raw materials from the sector to support local production. The Ministry hopes to have as many value chains as possible having such kind of production and marketing structures. The desired level of support for local production is aimed to be over 40% of their requirements and this should be achieved through contract farming, corporate farming and joint ventures, thus achieving backward integration. Private sector contribution to the 2020 winter wheat production was up to 20% of the total production (212 000MT).

Diversification of food production and consumption will explore support for production of alternative foods such as cassava, sunflower, potatoes and sweet potatoes to reduce consumption from the staple crops (maize, wheat and soyabean).

  • Climate Proofed-Presidential Input Support Scheme: This programme is aimed at supporting 1.8 million households to produce maize with a standard input package comprising 5kg seed, 50kg basal, 50kg top dressing fertilizer and fall army worm pesticide. Three plots are targeted under the programme (Pfumvudza) to cater for household food security (plot 1), commerce/ income (plot 2) and household nutrition and value addition (plot 3). The three plots target in excess of one (1) metric tonne of grain per household. Over 2.2 million farming households participated and were supported.

The Pfumvudza programme adopted the principles of conservation agriculture to help the small holder community to adapt to climate change effects and variabilities, hence climate proofing the sub-sector.

  • Pre-planting producer price: Pronouncing a floor producer price before the onset of a cropping season has some bearing on planting and crop management decisions. For the 2020/2021 summer crop marketing season, the producer prices are as follows: Maize- ZWL32 000 and Soyabean ZWL48 000.
  • Blitz Soil Conditioning Programme: The initiative entails countrywide promotion and application of lime to ‘sweeten’ acidic soils and consequently improve Fertilizer Uptake Efficiency (FUE) and yields. The initiative was rolled out in the 2020/21 season and farmers under the Pfumvudza programme were supported with soil testing services and soil conditioning agents (lime/gypsum). Over eight laboratories countrywide were equipped with soil testing kits as part of the decentralization of testing services. Mobile kits are also augmenting the speeding up of soil testing to inform lime/gypsum distribution.
  • Creation of Lowveld Crops Green Belt (Masvingo, Bulawayo Kraal and Kanyemba, Middle Sabi): The country can enjoy two maize cycles per year under irrigation in the lowveld areas where altitude is below 600 metres above sea level. Land clearing in these lowveld areas is on-going and corporates and institutional farmers are encouraged to invest in the belt. Champion farmers across all provinces will be identified to participate in the development of the crops green belt. The irrigation master plan for the greenbelt is already in place.
  • Capacitation of Extension Services Delivery System: The extension capacitation drive entails increased mobility, appropriate training and equipping extension officers with digital technologies for effective technical backstopping and coaching of farmers in light of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). This helps to ensure climate change adaptation, boost productivity, food security; and promote agriculture as an engine of pro-poor and inclusive economic growth.

His Excellency, the President Cde Dr E.D Mnangagwa supported Ministry’s extension capacitation with over 5 000 motorbikes. To date over 3 200 motorbikes have been delivered and distributed to Veterinary and Agritex extension officers in all the provinces. By end of April 2021, delivery and distribution of all the 5 000 motorbikes to all extension officers will be completed.

A total of 5 000 smart tablets were procured and 1 000 tablets have been distributed so far to agricultural extension officers. This capacitation is critical for the implementation of the Agriculture Information Management System and will enhance capacity building under the Zimbabwe Agric-hub extension training platform.

  • Speeding up irrigation development programmes: The Programme will build capacity of the Department of Irrigation (DoI) to effectively develop irrigation systems. The programme comprise of two approaches: Quick Fix and Full Kit. Quick Fix involves rehabilitation of non-functional irrigation, while Full Kit involves establishing new irrigation infrastructure, capitalizing on the numerous water bodies the country is endowed with.

The Ministry is implementing the Accelerated National Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Programme, Smallholder Irrigation Revitalization Programme (SIRP), More Food Programme Phase 2, Maka Resources Facility (Maka 20 & 80) and Pedstock Facility. This will result in an increase in the area under functional irrigation to at least 350,000 hectares by 2030.

The Ministry is aggressively exploring ways to revitalize all the smallholder irrigation schemes that commands a total of 26 000HA and will roll out market linked models to ensure sustainability.

  • Speeding up mechanisation programmes: This entails the importation of farm machinery and equipment in order to increase the tillage and combining capacities by approximately 300 000 hectares and 200 000 hectares respectively. In addition to this, the Agriculture Recovery Plan is promoting and supporting the local manufacture and supply of mechanisation equipment, implements and attachments. This is aimed at localizing the agricultural mechanization programme and substitute imports.

The John Deere and Belarus facilities are being administered by participating banks such Stanbic, CBZ and Agribank. Further, a Special Agricultural Equipment Leasing Vehicle housed at Agribank was created to offer tillage, planting and combine harvesting services on a cost-recovery basis supported on a Stop Order Platform with off-takers.

  • The development and enforcement of irrigation control regulations: These regulations gazetted in February 2021 (Statutory Instrument 38 of 2021) are aimed to facilitate administration of all irrigable land in a manner deemed necessary by government to promote optimal land and water resources utilization and productivity as well as ensure that irrigation schemes are transformed into a business case which are profitable, viable and sustainable. Further, the regulations entail prescribing strategic agricultural production options that can be promoted each season.
  • Promotion of the Hub and Spoke Model for Smallholder Farmers: To address production and market access challenges and fosters the creation of competitive value chains through training and provision of incentives. Private sector investment is being promoted in value chains like beef, dairy, potatoes. This concept is embedded in the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan to address the conventional horticulture production and marketing challenges.
  • Localization of fertilizer manufacturing: The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is leading on this key strategic intervention to put up a solid plan that averts the current importation of fertilizers as guided by a five-year roadmap that was approved by Cabinet.
  • The innovation and modernization of agriculture: Innovation and modernization of agriculture is the future of farming in the knowledge edge. The Agriculture Recovery Plan will partner Universities as innovation hubs. Effective use of modern and smart technologies will be made in the energy sector to explore renewable energies and off-grid interventions; extensions services delivery based on ICTs (e-extension); mechanisation and irrigation including automation and precision farming such as drip irrigation, fertigation and smart greenhouses; and use of satellite technology to provide real time information on total area under cropping. Improving Agricultural efficiencies is the next step in building competitiveness.

KEY SUCCESS FACTORS

The following keys points are very crucial for the success of the Agriculture Recovery Plan.

  1. a) Adopting scientific methods (Conservation Agriculture) to climate proof Government Programs;
  2. b) Timely provision of inputs (fertilizers, seeds, agrochemicals and other key utilities);
  3. c) Soil conditioning (liming) to improve fertilizer/nutrient use efficiency;
  4. d) Availability of key utilities such as power and fuel to farmers;
  5. e) Crowding in the private and the financial services sectors;
  6. f) Meticulous vetting, onboarding, tracking and monitoring of Productivity Enhancing Programmes;
  7. g) Access to appropriate finance for inputs and working capital;
  8. h) Continuous support of the targeted farmers with irrigation and mechanization services to improve efficiencies and climate proofing, respectively;
  9. i) Capacitating the extension service delivery system so that it becomes responsive and provision of the same to farmers;
  10. j) Government-wide coordination, monitoring and evaluation of the entire facets of the Recovery Plan

It is important to note that most of the programmes are being private sector led and government enabled. If we get agriculture right, then we are on the right track to get everything else right. Agriculture is four times more powerful at reducing poverty and transforming rural communities than any other sector.

Sixty-seven (67) per cent of Zimbabweans resides in rural areas, hence, pro-poor inclusive development programmes are invaluable in laying the necessary foundation for Zimbabwe to achieve its commitments under the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more importantly those the Ministry is directly and indirectly responsible for. There are SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG2 (Zero Hunger), SDG6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG13 (Climate Action), SDG14 (Life under water) and guided by SDG17 (Partnerships to achieve the Goals).

In light of the need to cooperate and collaborate for the achievement of SDGs, Government through the Ministry entered into partnerships with development partners to address some of the challenges imposed on us by climate change. The partnerships led to the rolling out of Small Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP), UNDP Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund, Green Climate Fund Project titled “Building Climate Resilience to Agriculture Livelihoods in Southern Zimbabwe”, Zimbabwe Agriculture Growth Programme among many. All these initiatives are meant to transform the sector in manner that builds capacity to withstand the vagaries of nature and more importantly focused on smallholder farmers (youth and women in particular) under the banner of leaving no one behind as pronounced and enunciated by His Excellency, the President Cde Dr E.D Mnangagwa in Vision 2030 as well as the Africa Agenda 2063.

Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement