The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (Zas) says in its quest to eradicate poverty among the majority, Government should channel most of its resources towards ensuring sustainable rural agricultural development.
In a statement, Zas chief executive officer Dr Anxious Masuka said for Government’s vision of attaining an upper-middle economy by 2030 to come true, there was a need to uplift the socio-economic status of rural households through creating avenues aimed at increasing agricultural productivity.
“Our take is that Vision 2030 must prioritise the 1,6-1,8 million rural households, some 10 million people, to uplift their socio-economic status, in a holistic manner. Addressing housing, water, sanitation, infrastructure, and social services, among others. Their only credible avenue out of poverty is increased agricultural productivity, yet there is a paucity of practically funded ideas about “what and how” to do this! The startling statistic that a mere five percent of rural households have surplus production to sell annually, must allow evidence-based policy making to take centre stage. With a focused, practical, inclusive and sustainable rural agricultural development paradigm shift, we see synergies for growth,” he said.
Dr Masuka said with more than 70 percent of the country’s population depending on agriculture for survival and sustenance it was of paramount importance for Government to focus its attention towards enhancing the productivity of the sector to improve people’s livelihoods, notably those living in rural areas.
“A deliberate and national focus should, therefore, be given to this important sector. The majority of the 70 percent, 54 percent of them being women, live in poorly developed rural areas, where only 64 percent have access to clean water and less than 30 percent have access to suitable sanitation facilities.”
Dr Masuka added that with 60 percent of the raw materials used in the manufacturing sector being derived from the agricultural sector there was a need for the sectors to work in synergies to improve their outputs.
“An estimated 60 percent of raw materials used in the manufacturing sector originate from agriculture, so a robust manufacturing sector, that is competitive in the local, regional and international markets, must, of necessity, be based on a vibrant, cost-efficient, profitable and sustainable agricultural sector. Yet the actors in these two sectors — agriculture and industry — both private and public, believe and act like they are in competition with little co-operation, collaboration and complementarity to yield the desired synergies for growth,” he said.
Zas has previously proffered an Agricultural Development Pentagon, to illustrate the links and the actors for a “new agricultural dispensation” cognisant of, and in the context of, the realities brought about by the land reform programme.
The Agricultural Development Pentagon offers a workable approach to increasing crop and livestock production and productivity devoid of impression amplifiers.
“This Agricultural Development Pentagon illustrates the need to establish farmer-centred and working value chains for inclusive and sustainable development. This would entail a new capacitation paradigm shift from extensionists to business advisors, translating and sharing the burden of farmers’ success in agriculture as a business to both the farmer and the business advisor, in communal and resettlement areas and with dedicated advisors for A2 farmers for production and financial plans. A policy shift would buttress and complement this thrust,” said Dr Masuka.
He added that the policy shift entails a radical change in the whole education value delivery continuum — from tertiary institutions to agricultural colleges for students, to agricultural business schools for farmer knowledge translocation and sharing.
Dr Masuka said the greatest changes have to occur in the policy and regulations domain to drive sustainable agriculture.
“It starts with the right policies, and enabling regulations, for which political will must be strong. Avoiding policy-induced droughts through appropriate agro-ecological region-defined input, crop and livestock support schemes, removing the burdensome regulatory issues, and streamlining and harmonising levies across the country, should be routine. We have seen some positive change, and some green shoots with the distribution of traditional grains across the country more recently,” he said.