New perspectives: Building capacity of agricultural players in Zim

An essential ingredient in capacity building is a transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within. Hence, the transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes.

BY RONALD ZVENDIYA Capacity-building is defined as the process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.

An essential ingredient in capacity building is a transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within. Hence, the transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes.

Agriculture is the predominant sector of Zimbabwe yet faces multifaceted challenges including an over-dependence on rainfall, weak capacity to respond to shocks, choice of crops, and land renting.

Significant investment and building the capacity of agricultural players are the key building block for agricultural transformation, especially the training of agricultural engineers, agricultural economists, and agricultural scientists, which is a pre-condition for agricultural sector turnaround.

Agriculture is at the centre of Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030.

The transformation of Africa’s agriculture is anchored on the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) which constitutes the agricultural components of the first 10 years’ implementation plan of Agenda 2063.

At the heart of agenda 2030 lies ending poverty and hunger responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization (2017), the world’s population is expected to reach 9.1 billion people in 2050, up from 7.4 billion in 2016.

Farmers need to increase food production by 70% compared to 2007 levels to meet the needs of the larger population.

Demand for cereals, people, and animal feed uses is projected to reach three billion tonnes by 2050, up from today’s nearly 2.1 billion tonnes.

Annual cereal production needs to grow by almost one billion tonnes, meat production by over 200 million tons by 2050 (FAO, 2017).

A study by the African Capacity Building Foundation on the key capacities needed to implement Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU) shows serious gaps in critical technical skills, especially in the area of Agriculture (agricultural engineers, agricultural economists, and agricultural scientists).

According to the Africa Agriculture Status Report 2013, of the 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with data, half had fewer than 100 scientists and 40 % of the agricultural scientists were working in just five countries.

Main institutional players in the agriculture sector

Food and Agriculture Organisation: Its mandate is to improve nutrition, increase agricultural productivity, raise the standard of living in rural populations and contribute to global economic growth. However, the challenge is insufficient capacity in the world to produce enough food to feed everyone adequately.

African Development Bank (AfDB): Steadily pioneers a major strategy shift in Africa’s agriculture financing.

AfDB has deepened agriculture with an initial investment of US $774 million in six countries in Africa to ignite economic growth and make agriculture an attractive investment.

The strategy aims to produce 300 000 agribusinesses and create jobs for 1.5 million youth in just five years and nurture a young pool of future agricultural millionaires to solve Africa’s population growth challenge.

The African Development Bank has  the Enable Youth Programme to ensure that youth have access to finance in the agricultural sector as an innovative solution to youth and women unemployment. The bank has US$ 15 billion for the programme to support youth and women enterprise and job creation in 31 African countries.

The aim is to create 300 000 agri-business enterprises in the next fi years, train 10 000 unemployed graduates in 31 countries, and leverage US$ 0.5 billion per country.

If Zimbabwe embraces this programme, its capacity will be embraced.

African Union in collaboration with National Parks Conservation Association and Regional Economic Communities, it facilitates the implementation of strategies contained in the CAADP to increase food production and accessibility, so that Africa can feed itself, export, and that drought triggered food crises are reduced.

Through CAADP, African governments are expected to increase investment levels in agriculture by allocating at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture and rural development and to achieve agricultural growth rates of at least 6% per annum.

African Capacity Building Foundation Knowledge generation and sharing. The  Foundation produced and shared the African Capacity Indicators report (ACI 2012) in 2012 under the theme “Capacity Development for Agricultural Transformation and Food Security”.

The report addresses issues of capacity development in Africa linking this to a very pertinent issue facing Africa today — agricultural transformation and food security.

It also attempts to help Africa redefine its post-colonial agricultural landscape and more importantly prescribes policy-relevant solutions and recommendations informed by country-specific ground truths based on field surveys from forty-two African nations.

The African Capacity Foundation also supports training programmes in the collaborative Masters’ Programme in Agricultural Economics.

ACBF has been financially supporting the work of the Africa Economic Research Consortium (AERC) in linking research to farmers and developing the right skills for agriculture through its partnership with the World Bank to invest in master’s degree training programs in the Collaborative Masters’ Program in Agricultural Economics.

Capacity imperatives for agricultural players

Availability of human capital. Africa has around 82,000 agricultural scientists but needs an estimated 152,000 agriculturalists —so, there is a need to produce over 8,000 each year until 2023 (ACBF 2016).

Climate Change Disaster Reduction Resilience Capacity. African farmers are increasingly susceptible to climate change‑induced fluctuations in rainfall and temperature.

This calls for transformation in agriculture through the development of fully flagged, e-complaint Climate Services Units or systems and adopting the Open Agriculture Initiative (creating a catalogue of climates) to increase resilience to climate change.

Composite Capacity. Zimbabwe has a composite capacity for agriculture that is rated Medium. Information systems are very important for increasing both agriculture value-added and productivity.

A good agricultural strategy can make the difference between high and low value-added to gross domestic product.

Training and investment in innovation are important for raising farmer and land productivity.

The private sector’s role is critical for raising productivity and increasing the contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product.

The Zimbabwe Africa Capacity Indices in Agriculture – percentages by Cluster are shown in the table at the bottom.

In conclusion, to better support players, actions are needed in at least three areas. First, more needs to be done in training, research, and innovation to increase the value-added and productivity of agriculture. Second, Zimbabwe remains vulnerable to food security and the effects of climate change.  Zimbabwe needs capacity development interventions in terms of early warning systems and climate change.

Third, CAADP is a good tool for helping countries focus attention on agriculture, but a lot remains to be done. Partnership on capacity building in the agriculture sector needs to be driven and underpinned by the CAADP objectives.

  • Zvendiya is a research & innovation analyst at the Insurance & Pensions Commission (IPEC). [email protected]
  • *These weekly  articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe. Email: [email protected] and mobile No.+263 772 382 852.

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