Zimbabwe’s agricultural transformation is set to promote rural economy, raising living standards and reduce inequality between rural and urban people.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe launched the National Development Strategy 1, a successor blueprint to the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (2018-2020) that seeks to put the country on a trajectory to become an upper middle-income nation by 2030.
From an agriculture perspective, the NDS1 is focusing on raising farm output and efficiency as well as unlocking other economic opportunities.
It seeks to increase agriculture production and productivity, especially by smallholder farmers to ensure food and nutrition security, enhanced income, increased opportunities for value addition and the development of agro-business value chains.
This is expected to improve standards of living of people in the rural areas and boost countryside economies. In most African nations — Zimbabwe included — inequality has prevented the benefits of economic growth from being spread equitably.
This is why economic growth achieved by many African countries have not translated to improved living standards of rural people. According to studies, it is estimated that about 42 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority being in rural areas, live in extreme poverty (less than US$1,90 per day).
“You might be aware that the Ministry of Agriculture launched Agricultural Food Systems and Transformation Strategy which seeks to achieve US$8,2 billion economy within agriculture sector by 2020 and that strategy seeks to revamp and transform the sector,” economist Professor Gift Mugano said.
“The NDS1 is focusing on raising production and this is going to help people in the rural areas . . . they will see their lives improving and more food security at their door steps.
“If we look at Zimvac (Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee) report there is a lot of challenges on dietary issues . . . on standard growth.
“Our standard growth is above 30 percent which is worrying and most of the people who are affected by this standard growth are in rural areas.
“But by just looking at agriculture production (targets under NDS1) alone, it is going to be a game changer in the rural areas,” Prof Mugano added.
Under the NDS1, production of major cash and food crops are expected to more than double by 2025.
Maize production is expected to reach three million tonnes, tobacco 300 million kgs, cotton 265 000 tonnes, wheat 600 000 tonnes and soyabean 400 000 tonnes. Significant growth will also be registered in small grains.
Other aspects, which are being dealt with from an agricultural perspective are issues of irrigation development.
The country is targeting expanded irrigation development and water harvesting to enhance production and productivity, targeting over 350 000 ha.
Dams earmarked for expansion include Tugwi Mukosi, Gwayi-Shangaan, Marovanyati, Osborne and Zhove.
The Irrigation Development Fund will be revived and resources will be channelled towards development and rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure.
As part of strategies for rural economy activation, 35 000 boreholes will be drilled to enhance water supplies in marginalised areas.
“One of the things which have been clearly spelt out is to make a green belt in Mwenezi-Masvingo area for massive agricultural activities,” said Professor Mugano.
“This is quite practical to rural development.”
Development economist Renford Musara said people living in the rural areas have been out of sight for too long, adding solving their problems was critical in meeting most of Sustainable Development Goals.
He described agricultural transformation as sustainable pathway for revamping rural economy. Key to unlocking the agriculture potential is resolving the security of tenure on the land in order to attract investment.
Further, measures will be put in place which will create conditions for bankability of agricultural projects.
Agribank will be restructured into a Land Bank and is expected to commence operation on May 1 next year.
The strategy targets the expansion of contract farming to other crops and livestock as well as strengthening existing contract farming arrangements.
The Government will incentivise banks to lend to agriculture and persuade them to move away from the current practice where most financial institutions are investing in non-productive short term instruments.
To drought proof agriculture, irrigation rehabilitation and expansion, promotion and adoption of research that improves productivity of seed and animal varieties, upscaling of climate smart agriculture practises such as Pfumvudza/Intwasa, and capacitation of extension services will be prioritised.
To improve predictability in the marketing of agricultural produce, the commodity exchange will be operationalised, supported by a well-functioning regulated warehouse receipt system.