Bumper harvests deal ZIDERA a deathly blow

THE progress registered in driving production and productivity across Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector for national food security has dealt sanctions imposed by Western countries a deathly blow by upsetting the economic embargo’s objective of causing hunger in the country.

Agriculture is one of Zimbabwe’s strategically key economic sectors, employing hundreds of thousands and generating billions of US dollars in revenue, including exports. Other key sectors include mining, tourism and manufacturing.

Zimbabwe has since been able to achieve record production, over the last two seasons, in key crops that include maize and wheat, but also non-food crops like tobacco, which happens to be the country’s second biggest export earner after minerals.

This was said by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Mashonaland East provincial director Munamati during the Sadc Anti-sanctions Solidarity Sanctions Summit in Mutoko on Tuesday.

October 25 of every year was set aside by Sadc in 2019 as the day to show support for Zimbabwe against the more than two-decades-long economic embargoes, which have caused an unbearable impact on Zimbabwe’s economy and the lives of its vulnerable citizenry.

This comes after the United States imposed sanctions, deemed illegal by the United Nations, against Zimbabwe in 2001 via the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) while the European Union followed suit in 2002.

“One effect that was going to be a result of the sanctions is hunger because this country is agriculture-based and obviously with sanctions the country was going to suffer from hunger. Once a nation becomes hungry, it becomes ungovernable.

“So, what we had to do as a ministry is to find means to be food secure so that we do away with the hunger issue. And to be able to be food secure, we came up with strategies and these strategies were obviously going to help this country to become food secure without necessarily going outside the country.

“So, we say as a ministry, food security everywhere, food security every day, food security at the household level, food security at the village level, food security at the district level, food security as a nation. We had to increase production and productivity. Once we increase production and productivity, then we are done with hunger issues.

“We realised we had the potential to increase production and productivity by creating what we now call joint ventures or partnerships where local, successful farmers partner with those who are struggling to increase production and productivity. But these partnerships obviously require funding and we had to incorporate funders like AFC Bank, we have CBZ Bank, we have NMBZ. These are supporting agriculture so that we increase production and productivity.

“However, this required the participation of everyone, this needed all the parastatals,” he said. Among the key institutions are the Grain Marketing Board, Agricultural Marketing Authority, Zimbabwe National Water Authority and Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.

Mr Munamati said the Government came up with the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, which was used to drive food security.The strategy entailed initiatives to increase the production of key cereal crops like maize, traditional grains, and wheat. “So, we needed a programme to increase cereal production; that’s why we came up with conservation agriculture, commonly known as Pvumvudza.

“This one was a climate-proofing strategy, which was going to do away with the issues of hunger. Since we started this Pvimvudza strategy, we have been very successful as a country. As a country, we normally need around 2,25 million metric tonnes.

“But recently, we have been producing up to 2,58 million tonnes, which means we are actually having an excess in terms of production and productivity. We have realised success made under wheat where we are saying, as a country, we need slightly above 350 000 metric tonnes, but last year, we managed to produce 375 000 metric tonnes of wheat.

“This means we are now actually producing more than what we need and that is one of the strategies we have been using to fight against these sanctions.

Mr Munamati said other strategies entailed initiatives to increase horticultural production, a key export earner for Zimbabwe, under the Horticultural Recovery Plan. “You realise that in terms of exports, we are now exporting horticulture crops like blueberries, which was not being done in the previous years,” he said.

The Government, through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, instituted measures to drive the growth of the livestock sector with a few to make sure food security is balanced with nutrition.

“That is why we had to improve in terms of beef production and recently we have increased from 3 to 6 percent. And this year, we are actually targeting six million (cattle), as the new target for our beef and

by 2025 targeting 8 million cattle,” he said.

Similarly, the strategies have encompassed measures to grow raw milk production. Further, Mr Munamati said the full spectrum of strategies employed to drive production and productivity included increasing the area under irrigation. This will also help climate-proof agriculture.

The Government had a target of growing agriculture to US$8,2 billion by 2025, but this has since surpassed and a new target of US$13,75 billion has been set to be achieved by the fall of 2025.

“We are now saying, to achieve the new target of US$13,75 billion economy by 2025, we are now coming up with a revised food transformation systems strategy and that one, obviously, working hand in hand with the Rural Development 8.0”.

In terms of the strategy, 35,000 villages in the country will have a village business unity, which should improve the economy of villagers. “Despite the sanctions, we are working very hard to make sure that without looking outside the country we are self-sufficient.

The principal director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Dr Charles Chishiri, delegates during the SADC Anti-Sanctions Solidarity Summit that local banks had lost nearly all correspondent banking relationships after most international banks severed ties with Zimbabwe.

He also said the sanctions had resulted in the suspension of balance of payment support, and ineligibility to any form of financial support by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“ZIDERA expressly directs any US representative at any such financial institution to oppose or vote against any request by Zimbabwe for such access or any form of debt relief, restructuring etcetera,” he said.

“The cumulative effect of  23 years of sanctions has been immense, impacting very negatively on all sectors of the Zimbabwean economy, and its people as a whole and severely undermining progress towards attainment of UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

The measures, Dr Chishiri said, also provided for the seizure and interception of all mineral revenue, sanctioning of key infrastructural and agricultural financing institutions as well as suspension of direct bilateral development cooperation.

Bankers Association of Zimbabwe president Lawrence Nyazema said the country’s banks were facing challenges facilitating external transactions, but most had since found ways to go around the hurdle posed by sanctions by using third parties, noting however that this was a longer and more expensive alternative.

“Most of the 16 (commercial) banks have ways of doing international transactions, indirectly, by having a correspondent in the State. If I am not mistaken, there is one or two banks that have a direct relationship with a bank in New York,” Mr Nyazema said.

The rest of the banks go indirectly, such as CBZ, which uses a South African bank.

“The impact of that is obviously that it slows down the movement of money going through a third party, ideally, we would all want to go to New York straight.

“It makes it expensive; it takes more time. So the ideal situation is we want to go directly, but we are generally managing but it could be better,” Mr Nyazema said.

Herald

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