HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsZim needs sustainable agricultural system

Zim needs sustainable agricultural system

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Significant rains fell over some parts of the country over the past few days.

NewsDay Editorial

Obviously these don’t signify the start of the rainy season, which is not expected until at least the middle of next month.

But they were a wake-up call.

Reports from the Meteorological Department indicate the country may have a very good rainy season. Despite the weathermen’s miscues in the past, it is well worth our while to be positive and prepare adequately for the new season.

But what is the country’s state of preparedness?

The country’s purse is empty; the more than half a million dollars needed to support farmers will be very difficult to come by.

Individual farmers are still struggling to raise money through the banks to finance their activities.

This is mainly because they lack the requisite collateral to borrow against.

Indications by government that the 99-year leases can now be used as security to borrow money from financial institutions don’t seem quite convincing yet.

Last week’s auctioning of farm equipment from Zanu PF lackey Lawrence Katsiru’s acquired farm presents an interesting test case which has to be studied closely. Katsiru acquired the farm during the land reform programme.

He owes a Chinese company, Tian Ze, about $100 000. The question that begs an answer is whether he borrowed this money against the equipment of the farm or whether legally his creditor can auction equipment whose ownership is in dispute.

Whatever the case, can financial institutions satisfy themselves that they are safe lending to new farmers against property that may be claimed at a later stage by third parties?

Or, whether they can lend against the land itself?

The Katsiru case complicates the relationship between farmers and funders, be they banks or companies that fund contract farmers.

It is clear beneficiaries of the land reform programme have not successfully weaned themselves off government support. This is such a shame considering the time they had access to the farms.

They ought by now to have found their feet and become viable agricultural entrepreneurs.

Government too cannot continue to support communal farmers. Over the years they should have been taught skills to enable them to manage their harvests in such a way that they retained some proceeds from the previous season to take care of the coming season.

Government has spoilt them over the years to the extent that they expect to be spoon-fed all the time.

Considering the economic crisis gripping the country, the agricultural sector is likely to be hit hard by the scarce funding yet it is the sector most likely to turn round the economy in the shortest possible time.

But many farms will continue to lie fallow if our farmers cannot acquire the knowhow to make them self-sustaining.

It is generally known all is not well in the fertiliser and seed sector.

Manufacturers of these are owed millions of dollars by government each year crippling their activities. This vicious cycle can only end when a sustainable agricultural system is put in place.

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