Economist Eddie Cross says only four things are required to get Zimbabwe’s farming industry, and the country, back on its feet.
“If we do not do this”, he argues, “we will continue to wallow in poverty and to experience shortages and high costs for products that we are otherwise able to produce ourselves at globally competitive prices.”
He listed the four as:
- First, fix our money market. I may sound like a broken record but this is not rocket science. Nearly all of Africa has already done what is necessary. In my view we need to use our own dollar for all domestic transactions, convert all incoming foreign currencies on a real interbank market and lift all exchange controls.
- Secondly, give our new farmers real security of tenure so that they will invest in the properties they occupy and not simply mine the land for a living; be able to borrow what they need to farm against the security of their farm assets. This is close, I have seen the new 99 year lease and I think this just about does it, but why 48 pages of legalese? Just use the Zambian lease – three pages.
- Thirdly, work with our banks to provide the seasonal and longer term funding required to farm properly.
- Finally, get the industrial industry, that previously supported our farmers with all inputs, farm machinery and markets, back on its feet.
The Farm Crisis in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is not an easy country in which to farm. We have a very high mean variation in annual rainfall, two thirds of the country are arid or semi-arid and our wet season is short – from about 15th November to March, just 4 and a half months. We have to store water for the long dry season and to make things more difficult, we are one of the countries that are listed to be most impacted by the predicted changes in the weather. Certainly, in recent years our weather seems to have changed with more extremes.
When my forefathers settled in this country after 1893, they started farming and soon found that it was a tough game. But over the next 100 years they learned how to handle the difficulties and were able to establish an industry here with about 5 000 large scale commercial farms on 12 million hectares of land, perhaps 25 000 small scale commercial farms on another 3,5 million hectares and about 700 000 peasant farmers on another 18 million hectares.
In 1993, the farmers here fed the country at prices below regional levels, we were nearly completely self sufficient in all basic foods except perhaps wheat. At the same time the industry provided subsistence to half the population and employed perhaps 350 000 workers on a full time basis and perhaps the same number in temporary seasonal employment. Our farmers generated half our exports and in some sectors were globally important. The industry had been the largest contributor to our national economic growth in the years since Independence in 1980.
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