Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
THE Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) is seeking partners to revive its remaining estates as the parastatal gears up with its programme to be the biggest player in crop production in the country.
In an interview, Arda board chairman Mr Basil Nyabadza said the parastatal was in the process of finalising agreements with a number of private players to channel investment for the resuscitation of its remaining agricultural enterprises that have been lying idle due to financial constraints.
“In (virtually) all our estates we now have investors, which we are partnered, however, in some of them we encountered some problems because we wanted to expand fast but we are re-visiting together (with our investors) and seeing whether we can now access money as jointly which would now be lent out on terms to the respective investors,” said Mr Nyabadza.
He however, could not be drawn to divulge the number of estates that are still to find an investor. Arda owns 22 estates across the country, which translates to about 100 000 hectares, most of which have been lying idle owing to viability challenges largely emanating from poor funding. However, the parastatal has over the past few years revived most of its estates through Public Private Partnerships arrangements. Mr Nyabadza said he was satisfied with the nature of PPPs the institution entered as well as their impact, which has seen productivity at estates significantly increasing.
“I am glad that the country is catching up, Arda started this PPP business model nine years ago when we started with Chisumbanje and now everyone is catching up because that’s the only way and worldwide those are the trends of business,” he said.
In Matabeleland South, Arda partnered Trek Petroleum to revive Antelope Irrigation Scheme and Arda Ingwizi that have produced significant crop output over the past few years.
Arda was established soon after Independence in 1981 to plan, co-ordinate, implement, promote and assist with agricultural development in Zimbabwe.
The company was given ownership over a number of properties around the country and entered into lease agreements with the local authorities to develop and farm the land in line with its mandate.
In 2008, Arda embarked on a turnaround programme which entailed courting investors to revive business on its estates, which had collapsed during the hyper-inflationary period.
The revival strategy was also meant to ensure that the company pursues a vibrant social responsibility agenda for the benefit of the rural population.