Almot Maqolo

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa says the country is now focusing on unlocking value from the land, ensuring maximum productivity, as the agricultural sector plays a pivotal role in stimulating the modernization and industrialisation of the economy.

Agriculture contributes 15-18% of the southern African country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides livelihoods to the approximately 67% who are the rural population. It also supplies about 63% of industrial raw materials, with the share of agriculture in manufacturing value added at 60% and the share in export earnings at 30%. Agriculture-related employment supports a third of the formal labour force in the country.

In his 39th Independence Celebrations address, held at the giant national sports stadium Thursday, Mnangagwa said there were factors which needed to be dealt with for the agricultural sector to fully supply enough resources to the industry. Zimbabwe is an agro based economy.

“Foremost, in this regard is the need to provide security of tenure, facilitate access to capital for farmers and generate sufficient raw materials for the revival and growth of the industrial sector,” he said.

The southern African nation’s agricultural land is predominantly under communal ownership, while resettled farmers under the A1 and A2 models own land through permits and 99-year leases respectively. The 99-year leases were introduced to address issues of security of tenure in respect to the A2 model, as a tool for formalising occupancy of redistributed farms to beneficiaries who would have paid lease rentals.

However, farmers are facing challenges in accessing loans from financial institutions because the same banks are not accepting the permits or 99-year leases, arguing they are not adequate to guarantee provision of loans.

In the “State of Food and Agriculture 2017” report, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) called on African governments to strengthen land tenure policies and improve access to credit and equity in supply contracts as part of measures to guarantee food security on the continent.

Mr Mnangagwa said productivity on the Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) farms would continue to be increased with “subsidiary focus on value addition”.

His administration would address the challenges besetting the livestock subsector.

“The government is increasing financial support towards procurement of essential vaccines against high impact diseases. In addition over 60 veterinary doctors have been deployed countrywide,” he said, adding that the resuscitation of the Cold Storage Commission (CSC) remained on track.

In February 2019, the United Nations (UN) launched a US$234 million international aid appeal for the southern African nation to deal with drought, which is poised to affect around a third of the country’s population.

“The negative impact of climate change entails that we undertake adoptive responses that will enhance our resilience. As a result of this year’s drought, considerable quantities of our grain in our strategic grain reserves will be availed so that none of our people will die from hunger.”

Zimbabwe is highly dependent on rain fed agriculture and currently experiencing the adverse impacts of droughts of climate change that includes high prevalence of droughts and mid-season dry spells. Land under irrigation is poised to increase by 29% as the southern African nation moves away from rain fed agriculture.