THE politics of the stomach is taking centre stage as the country edges towards general elections to end the uneasy coalition government between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations.
Report by Everson Mushava Chief reporter
The three coalition partners are competing to outdo each other, through various party-driven projects, in order to win the hearts of the electorate.
President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF has been doling out projects to lure the electorate as the veteran leader vows to fight like a wounded beast to reclaim sole governance of the country he has ruled since 1980.
Most of the empowerment projects by Zanu PF, which include the land reform, the controversial indigenisation programme and the $20 million agricultural input scheme that saw rural families getting free seed and fertilizer.
Mugabe’s source of funds have remained a mystery, but the veteran leader, who turns 89 next month, claims he launched the input scheme to improve food security in the country.
Zimbabwe has had repeated droughts, forcing some families mainly in Masvingo and Matabeleland to rely on food aid. United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator Alain Noudehou, last week said his organisation needed at least $110 million to feed over 1,6 million people facing starvation this year.
But Mugabe’s main rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T says besides creating jobs, the best way to end starvation and heavy reliance on food hand-outs was through a vibrant rural transformation scheme.
This could see villages around the country, rely on methods such as drip irrigation for sustainable farming.
When NewsDay visited Tsvangirai’s homestead in Buhera, maize crop planted in October last year was now ready for harvesting. The PM said he expects to harvest more than 13 tonnes per hectare. If land was set aside in the 1 958 wards in the country total yield could go a long way to alleviate Zimbabwe’s annual maize requirements.
Chief-of-staff in Tsvangirai’s office Alex Magaisa said unlike the Zanu PF models of empowerment that thrive on seizing existing businesses, MDC-T,’s empowerment model emphasises on professionalism and hard work.
“What we need as MDC is hard work and self-sustenance,” Magaisa said.
“You should not give people fish, but teach them how to fish. We don’t believe in handouts. What the PM has sought to do is to demonstrate the potential of the project at his home. The project will now cascade to all provinces, particularly those areas hard hit by droughts.”
Magaisa said Tsvangirai plans to roll-out the drip irrigation maize project countrywide to promote rural development. He said the pilot project seeks to demonstrate a link between a smallholder farmer, technology, agriculture and food security.
Ian Makone, who is in charge of government works programmes in Tsvangirai’s office, is also doing drip irrigation at his home in Domboshava. He said drip irrigation was a sustainable way of farming which did not require vast tracts of land.
Makone’s claims fly in the face of Zanu PF’s land reform programme where Mugabe distributed large acreage of prime land to his cronies, with some reported to have more than five farms, most of them underutilised.
Zimbabwe’s food security plummeted around the year 2000 when Mugabe launched a violent farm takeover from the whites who used to control most of the prime land in Zimbabwe. The 300 000 families resettled by Mugabe have failed to produce enough food for the country.
Equipment at most farms was stripped, plunging yield levels to all-time lows and reducing the country from a regional bread basket to a net importer of food.
“Drip irrigation is a cheap and manageable way of productive farming,” Makone said.
“Imagine, if we had a series of these projects like the one at the PM’s home in each village in the country, hunger could be a thing of the past. If the PM can produce about 30 tonnes of maize on a two-hectare piece of land, each village will be able to feed itself.
Makone is using drip irrigation on a one hectare piece of land at his home in Domboshava. He is also into greenhouse farming for the production of vegetables, pumpkins, cucumbers and green paper among other crops.
Tsvangirai’s drip irrigation rural transformation project is set to generate debate in Zimbabwe on whether owning large tracts of land, most of it idle, would be the solution to Zimbabwe’s persistent hunger woes.
With such sustainable land use, is the current land dog fight really necessary? In other countries that use drip irrigation like Israel, a small piece of land can feed thousands of people. Critics of the land reform say failure by the Zanu PF government to guarantee land ownership has tainted the party’s policy of empowerment and threatened food security.
Statistics show Zimbabwe requires 2,2 million tonnes of maize every year, but the country has been struggling to produce even half a million tonnes in the past years.
Eric Munanga, who manages the project together with the PM’s young brother, Komborero Tsvangirai, said their Buhera project can feed about 100 families in Humanikwa area.