Command Agric: Myths, lessons, future

Hon. Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa
I am aware that you had invited me to talk about the topic “From Command Agriculture to Command Economy”, but had to take the liberty to alter it to “Command Agriculture in Zimbabwe: Myths, Lessons and Future.”

Contrary to the widely-held view that people are compelled to give up land, they actually join the programme voluntarily, but once in, they should conform to its expectations and requirements.

From the onset, I want to preface my lecture by challenging Zimbabweans to go a gear up in enhancing agricultural production and productivity to ensure sustainable food production.

Maize and maize products support our dietary needs and various agro-processing value chains. A decline in agricultural output, therefore, tends to hurt the country’s economy.

Consequently, we cannot afford the luxury of a “business-as-usual approach” to farming.

As is contained in the National Anthem, our prayer is that:

Shona Quote: Mvura ngainaye, Minda ipe mbesa;

Vashandi vatuswe, ruzhinji rugutswe;

Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe.

English Quote: May rain abound and fertile fields;

May we be fed, our labour blessed;

And may the Almighty protect and bless our land.

Isindebele Quote: Izulu kaline, izilimo zande;

Iz’ sebenzi zenam’, abantu basuthe;

Kalibusiswe ilizwe leZimbabwe.

We sing the National Anthem daily and yearn for abundant rains and fruitful harvests now, as we conclude the first year of our three-year Command Agriculture initiative.

Moreover, the National Anthem also talks to our food security concerns. The above extract of our National Anthem is, therefore, instructive.

In his address to the Ghanaian Parliament on 1 February 1966, the great Pan-African, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, stated: Quote: “. . . I have directed that emphasis be laid in education of Science and Technology with a view to Ghana producing in the shortest possible time not only administrators and managers required to implement our development programme, but also our scientists, technologists and technicians needed in industry and agriculture.”

This was a visionary statement made way back in 1966 by Nkrumah, proving His Excellency, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R G Mugabe, right, when he says he misses Kwame Nkrumah.

Just imagine where Africa would have been today in terms of agricultural development if Nkrumah’s ideas had been implemented then.

Likewise, as stated in Nkrumah’s address, the emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) by the Government of Zimbabwe echoes the need for accelerated research and development and innovation that will re-industrialise the country, grow its economy and improve the quality of life for its people.

While addressing a Chimurenga Day Rally on the 28th of April 1968, Zimbabwean nationalist and lawyer Dr Herbert Chitepo noted: “We have tried to correct this tragic error by politicians and mobilising the people before mounting any attacks against the enemy.

After politicising our people, it became easier for them to co-operate with us and to identify with our programme.” In the same vein, also in 1968, the late Pan-Africanist and former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarege Nyerere, stated that: “If the people are not involved in public ownership, cannot control the policies followed, the public ownership can lead to fascism. . .”

It was through the powerful tool of mobilisation that the Government of Zimbabwe constructed schools and clinics in 1980, as the people were able to witness the concrete benefits of Independence. As our late fellow Comrade Amilcar Cabral from the Portuguese colony of Guinea Bissau aptly put it: “People do not fight for ideas in a book or in the heads of the leaders, but for concrete things, concrete benefits.”

The significance of mobilising Command Agriculture stakeholders, including farmers during the programme’s implementation, therefore, enabled stakeholders to fully identify with the letter and spirit of the programme, allowing for its appreciation, and thereby, contributing to the programme’s success.

What is Command Agriculture?

In the context of Zimbabwe’s Special Programme on Maize Production for Import Substitution (also referred to as Command Agriculture), Command Agriculture is a policy intervention by Government, informed by the imperative to substitute grain imports through increased agricultural production and productivity, thereby revitalising various agro-processing value chains and helping the country to re-industrialise, among other objectives.

The programme further aimed to derive optimal value from the Land Reform Programme, enhancing our dignity as a nation that can feed itself, while marshalling the country’s resources and aptitudes for a better future. The crystallisation of the Command Agriculture idea into a philosophy ensured that our people understood the need to work to fight hunger.

Objectives of Command Agriculture

At its meeting of the 20th of July 2016, Cabinet took a decision to embark on Command Agriculture, beginning with the 2016/17 summer cropping season.

The objectives of the Programme were:

(a) To ensure food security and maize supply self sufficiency;

(b) To produce maize locally and reduce grain imports, and

(c) To produce at least two million metric tonnes of maize grain on 400 000 hectares out of which at least 200 000 hectares would be on irrigated land.

In volume terms, the Command Agriculture objective was attained; with the 2016/17 maize production projected to be in excess of two million metric tonnes.

Funding model

The programme was modelled as a Public, Private Partnership (PPP), where financiers directly paid suppliers for inputs that were drawn by farmers, with farmers accessing inputs and making loan repayments through grain deliveries to Grain Marketing Board depots on a cost-recovery basis.

Identification of Farms and Performing Contracts

The Ministries of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development; Lands and Rural Resettlement; and Environment, Water and Climate were called upon to identify farms, farmers and water bodies targeted under the programme.

Participating farmers signed performance contracts for three consecutive summer cropping seasons, commencing with the 2016/17 summer season.

Priority was given to those farms that are near water bodies.

Contracted farmers were committed to deliver to the GMB, five tonnes per hectare and empowering them to retain the surplus for profit.

The strategy was pragmatic, and it delivered the desired result.

In the same vein, committing farmers to paying back loans inculcates a sense of responsibility, thus helping the country in developing a new breed of farmers who respect contracts.

Insights from various interventions such as the Utete Report, among others, combined with the exigencies of the need to substitute maize imports and resuscitate industry, all combined in informing the planning, execution and monitoring of the Command Agriculture programme.

To be continued

18,328 total views, no views today

  • Zvobgo

    Dohwa nhema dzaro doro!