Prioritise smallholder farmers: Zimcodd

African farmers need homegrown solutions to improve food security. Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-NC-SA

GOVERNMENT should prioritise smallholder farmers in vulnerable and marginalised communities by availing to them public credit lines.

In a policy digest titled The Feasibility of the National Agriculture Policy Framework 2018 to 2030 released on Monday, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) urged the Finance ministry to come up with guarantees or collateral mechanisms that enable farmers to access private financial credit

Zimcodd said smallholder farmers are failing to secure credible and affordable loans due to poor public financial and credit facilities.

“Despite the government having overspent its agriculture allocation (by) approximately 71%, nothing tangible has been done for the smallholder farmers, thus leaving a lot of smallholder farmers at the mercy of private financial institutions which are exploitative and profit-driven.

“A key respondent from Nyazura, who is a tobacco farmer, lamented how they are failing to get government financial assistance, thereby leaving them at the mercy of financial institutions,” Zimcodd said.

“Furthermore, the elite and politically-(connected) persons have been the primary beneficiaries of most agricultural subsidies leaving smallholder farmers with little to show. The unpopular command agriculture and pfumvudza financial schemes are a clear testimony to this. A key informant from the Agriculture ministry (extension worker) stated that, what is hampering agriculture in rural communities and many resettlement areas is poor public financial credit lines.”

In their recommendations, Zimcodd said there is need for policy alternatives that seek to ensure improvement in agricultural financing by establishing an Agriculture Development Fund.

“This will help in addressing issues related to financial incapacity. This will facilitate the mobilisation of affordable and long-term lines of credit, enhance access to funding for the sector and prioritise and support agriculture value chain development based on regional comparative advantages,” Zimcodd added.

Speaking to NewsDay Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Stancilae Tapererwa said: “Small-scale farmers are in a dilemma because there is a challenge for them to get either loan facilities or agricultural subsidies. Loans need collateral and most of these small farmers don’t have that. The loan interests are now high, and so farmers cannot benefit from such facilities. We are now advising them to come into groups and enhance security thus mitigating such problems.”

Agricultural Technical and Extension Services director Shadreck Makombe, however, said he was not yet aware of the issue.

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