HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsNew farming policies need to be explored

New farming policies need to be explored

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Zimbabwe has been receiving quite a significant amount of rain lately.

For many, this is a sign of revival. The country’s economy has always been agro-based, meaning the agricultural sector forms the foundation for the success of all other sectors.

The economy has not performed to its optimum for a while now. The reason for this can be traced to what has been happening on the land, that mother of all resources which any nation cherishes for, without it there is no survival.

It has become a cliché now that Zimbabwe once was the bread basket of Africa, but is now only a basket case. But there is something worthy reflecting on in the cliché. The question that’s unavoidable as a consequence is whether it is possible to return the country to its previous status.

Optimists say it is possible. They base their argument on the fact that the land is still available, fertile and receives reasonable rains. They also argue that although the country experiences a drought every three-to-five years, measures such as irrigation can be put into place to mitigate this.

In a year of abundant rain such as this one, small-scale farmers usually rise to the occasion and produce most of the food while large-scale farmers produce the cash crops such as flowers, tobacco and soya beans . This has been the trend for a long time.

But even the most incorrigible optimist is overly aware of the challenges the agricultural sector faces. The greatest challenge only partially has to do with land ownership; the major problem is finance. Some may argue, the two cannot be separated, but that is a matter for the politicians.

In the past 15 years, the Zanu PF government has barred farmers from seeking finance from other Zimbabweans who might have had the wherewithal to fund farming. This policy was in fulfilment of its jingoistic land reform project which it feared could be reversed if farmers sought finance from former landowners.

Because of this sentiment the government had banned joint ventures between new black farmers and people of other races, particularly whites. It also had banned contract farming. But these policies were senseless as they continued to stifle agricultural productivity.

It is, therefore, with some sigh of relief that government has, according to Lands and Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora, relaxed these unreasonable restrictions and now allows joint ventures between black farmers and former white commercial farmers.

But this new policy shift is not going to be easy to implement and superintend. White commercial farmers will continue to be wary of any arrangement that can be reversed at the whim of certain individuals in government particularly the country’s chief executive, Robert Mugabe. It will only be after he personally announces the new policies that farmers will accept them with a bit of ease.

Arrangements between individual farmers will also need quite a bit of policing. Government will have to work out a legal framework under which contracts are drafted and supervised so that such joint ventures don’t turn into nightmares for some parties. Be that as it may, the new policy pronouncements need rigorous pursuit.

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