With reports that Zimbabwe will need at least three normal average rainy seasons to achieve the standard of living or Gross Domestic Product it had in 1980, questions are being asked about how serious the government really is to revive the country’s declining agricultural production.
Farmers were indeed given the necessary incentives when the government announced new producer prices just before Witness Mangwende was removed from the Ministry of Agriculture which he had been accused of wrecking but the government seems to be paying lip service to the idea of providing inputs especially to peasant farmers.
Initially there was talk that the government was going to help all the 800 000 communal farmers who had become the backbone of maize and cotton production when commercial farmers abandoned these crops to go into more viable ones. This was quite an insurmountable task which many doubted the government would be able to meet but they never changed the figure even when they knew the resources that were at their disposal.
Now one only hears of talk that only 30 000 seed and fertilizer packs will be distributed to the country’s eight provinces. While this is still a noble idea, the big question is, which 30 000 peasant farmers will benefit?
Ideally the seed packs should be given to those farmers who will fully-utilise the seed packs. On the other hand they should also be given to those farmers who cannot afford to buy seed. This brings in fears most people are worried about. By allocating a separate credit facility for commercial farmers the government in effect ensured that these farmers would receive inputs commensurate with their production since they would be assessed on their credit worthiness.
The other farmers, on the other hand, will most likely be allocated seed packs based on who they know or to the organisation or political party they belong to.
While the peasant and small-scale farmers are now under one umbrella body there are strong fears that small-scale farmers may be favoured because the current president of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, Gary Magadzire, identifies with them more than he does with peasant farmers. The question is should small-scale farmers benefit from such a scheme when they are supposed to be viable commercial farmers albeit on a small-scale or they should rely on financial institutions?
The other problem is that the rainy season is about to begin yet most of the inputs have not yet been delivered. The tractors promised to help people till the land are very few. Another major question is who will account for the money allocated for the purchase of these inputs? And with just about 4 000 seed packs to a province who decides who gets what?