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MIXING politics with agriculture and handing vast tracts of land to lazy farmers who then squander millions of dollars meant for production and resale for quick cash government-provided free inputs is what has destroyed Zimbabwe’s once-vibrant agricultural sector.
This was the damning assessment of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) chief John Mangudya as the country again pleads for more than $300 million to import grain from its neighbours.
About 1.5 million people are predicted to go hungry after a dramatic fall in maize production last season.
“We need to remove politics from farming if we are to re- energize this sector; Zimbabweans tend to mix the two,” Mangudya said Wednesday in the eastern border city of Mutare.
He was addressing the 75th annual congress of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union.
Once a net food exporter and touted as Africa’s bread basket, Zimbabwe has struggled with poor harvests over the last decade which the government blames on droughts.
Critics however, point the finger at President Robert Mugabe’s policies, in particular the chaotic and violent land reforms which saw about 4,000 white farmers being forcibly ejected with the land given to more than a quarter of a million local blacks.
Mangudya said the country does not need hundreds of thousands of farmers to feed itself and produce a surplus which could be exported.
“We only need 2,000 serious farmers who are adequately funded to produce food for the country at just 100 hectare each,” he said.
“We don’t need sangomas (traditional leaders) but seriousness only. We should come up with a (land) policy which clearly says use it or lose it.”
Beneficiaries of Mugabe’s land reforms often complain that they are not being adequately funded and supported by either the State or local financial institutions.
Nothing could be further from the truth, said Mangudya Wednesday.
The central bank chief revealed that last season alone, about $500 million was channelled into the agriculture but there was nothing to show for the support.
“Government alone, during the last agricultural season, channelled $60 million while $100 million came from the banking sector,” he said.
“About $9,4 million came from micro finance institutions, $24 million from contract farming and other supporting partners while NGO provided $48 million but nothing came out.”
He added: “It’s not about money but planning.
“We have a situation in the country where farmers don’t repay loans.”
Laziness is what has destroyed the country agricultural sector, the RBZ chief stated.
“We have all the money but where are we getting it wrong?
“It’s not about title deeds or 99 year leases but we should just do away with the culture of laziness on the farms.
“We have a lot of farms which are lying idle. The problem with Zimbabweans is that we are too educated and we only see problems only but not production.”
The government’s free input scheme was also being abused with seed, fertiliser and implements supplied by the State often quickly re-sold for quick cash.
Again, farmers who would have benefited from the free seed and fertiliser then want to sell their produce to government at prices beyond its woefully sparse purse.
Mangudya said new farmers needed to start operating like entrepreneurs if local agriculture is to recover.
“The way business is being run in Zimbabwe is bad,” he lamented.
“We don’t have entrepreneurs but workers; entrepreneurs plan before the rain season but in the country we have farmers who wait for government freebies.
“The problem with Zimbabweans is that we are too educated and we only see problems only but not production.”
He said it was sad that while countries like Ethiopia and Zambia had green belts, Zimbabwe’s fields were brown with weeds and grass. Source-newzimbabwe
photo -Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) chief John Mangudya-nehandaradio