'Peasant farmers now driving Zimbabwe's economy'

'Peasant farmers now driving Zimbabwe's economy'
Published: 21 April 2019 (182 Views)
THE agricultural sector, seen as the mainstay of the country's economy, is now being powered by peasant farmers following the chaos that decimated commercial farming, the Daily News on Sunday can report.

A survey commissioned by the Financial Gazette and the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (Zas) - in partnership with CBZ Bank and National Foods - exposed structural changes that have occurred in the farming sector.

It revealed that the more than one million peasant farmers in Zimbabwe are now driving the economy as commercial farming which used to be the country's mainstay dissipates.
Thousands of commercial farms are currently lying dormant nationwide.

Titled the 2018 Agricultural Sector Survey, the study sought to establish the state of agricultural sector - reviewing the state of crops, infrastructure, agriculture finance and production.
It also looked at the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity and finally regional benchmarking and opportunities in the Zimbabwean agricultural sector.

Zimbabwe's agricultural sector is predominantly smallholder-led with over a million communal farmers relying on rain-fed agriculture, and close to 70 percent of them making a livelihood on less than two hectares of land.

Agriculture contributes around 16 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides livelihoods to approximately 70 percent of Zimbabwe's population.
It also contributes 40 percent of the southern country's national export earnings, 63 percent of raw materials to agro industries, while 70 percent of the population derives its livelihood from the sector.

Before former president Robert Mugabe's haphazard land reform in 2000, approximately 4 000 commercial farms used to sustain the economy which was the bread basket of the continent.

The aftermath of the fast track land reform left hordes of land under Zanu-PF supporters and Zanu-PF bigwigs who dipped double portions from the violent redistribution, which ejected most white farm owners to neighbouring countries and abroad.  

The under-utilisation of land by most of the beneficiaries - which has robbed the country of potential revenue for more than a decade - precipitated government to call for a land audit last year as large acres of farms lay dormant with no production.

Zimbabwe's current land distribution has 1 321 800 peasant farmers, 31 200 medium scale commercial farmers, 1 354 agro-estates farmers and 1 371 commercial farmers.
This has left peasantry farming at the forefront of agriculture production in the country.

However, according to the survey, the majority of the small-scale farmers are susceptible to the vulnerability of climate change and drought of funding.

"These combined factors have resulted in low productivity across crops and livestock," reads part of the survey.
Seventy percent of Zimbabwe's population is directly dependant on agriculture, and agriculture supplies the bulk of raw materials go to the manufacturing sector.

According to the survey, small holder farmers have limitations including "inadequate resources and poor technologies, which present an opportunity for investment and a positive policy environment for financing smallholder agriculture" which means that production will likely remain low.

As 70 percent of Zimbabweans rely on agriculture for drought or low production could mean millions being food insecure, the Food and Agriculture Organisation says.
Currently, Zimbabwe has continued to register a higher import bill due to reliance on food imports.
Lands ministry deputy minister Peter Haritatos speaking at the launch of the survey said government has taken note of the report.

"I am happy to inform you that my ministry is already responding to these through a number of activities," he said.
Haritatos said the ministry now has a draft National Agriculture Policy Framework, which is being implemented through the Zimbabwe Agriculture Investment Plan (ZAIP), Command Agriculture Programme and other Public Sector Investment Programmes.

"Government is playing its role in ZAIP as per the Malabo declaration and in line with recommendations from your survey, Command Agriculture has an increased emphasis on livestock production," he said.

- dailynews

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