The Sunday Mail
Minister Anxious Masuka
The biggest issue is we are prioritising food security; we have had perennial food insecurity for a number of years to an extent that we think it is the new normal.
The country imports food every year because we do not have enough maize, soya or wheat.
So, the intention is to accelerate the programmes that have commenced, especially climate-proofing our agriculture, so that smallholder agriculture can then become self-sufficient.
In addition, we begin to induct them into commercialisation so that they can meaningfully contribute towards Vision 2030.
But that climate-proofing ought to happen because climate change is real and we need to climate-proof our agriculture through harnessing water in the 10 000 or so dams that we have in the country.
There must be an acceleration of the irrigation development programme.
In that vein, we want to ensure that in the next two to three seasons we have brought into production 350 000 hectares so that it becomes irrigable.
If you multiply that even by a mere 5 tonnes — although we know that irrigation produces up to 8 tonnes per hectare — it means that we are already somewhere in the region 1,6 million tonnes of maize, and our human consumption is around 1,6 million.
That is how we are ensuring immediately that there is food security.
Obviously, timeous input availability is key, which is why inputs have to be moved by the September 15 to the various areas.
Given the predicted normal to above-normal rainfall season, we can only expect the best. We need to climate-proof agriculture in a third way, and we are looking at traditional grains because ordinarily, those are more drought tolerant.
There is a massive programme to ensure that we increase that.
But we are also introducing a fourth way of climate-proofing by ensuring that feed does not compete with food.
We use somewhere in the region of 630 000 tonnes of stock feed in a year, of which a substantial amount — upwards of 400 000 and 450 000 tonnes — could be maize.
So we have livestock competing with people for maize.
If the livestock feed sector begins to look at alternatives for feed such as traditional grains, cassava and other sources, it means that we will be able to release some of the maize for people.
So there are a range of interventions that we can bring to bear so that we can achieve food security.
In the process, annually we use somewhere in the region of US$800 million to import various cereals.
But once we assure food security, it means that we can redeploy that money to other areas.
Then the next stage, of course, is to try and broaden and diversify our exports, and tobacco is one such area where we are exporting it raw or semi-processed.
If we had additional processing that leads us into value addition and beneficiation, that means it will lead us into more value.
If we did more on our cotton, it means we lead our rural population into a better position in the various aspects of the value chain.
So there are a lot of activities and opportunities to grow the agriculture sector.
We are looking at improving livelihoods of 1,8 million households in Zimbabwe that are dependent on agriculture.
So Vision 2030 cannot be attained until and unless these people are brought up the ladder and they are involved in agriculture.
It is, therefore, an absolute imperative that we increase agricultural productivity so that they can begin to meaningfully benefit from their investment.
These various interventions would require a radical transformation of the agricultural delivery system.
This means Agritex has to do business as unusual; we now have to transform Agritex from just providing extension services into business advisory so that every farmer has a business mindset.
This is so that whenever they cultivate, they know that it is not just for subsistence but also for commerce.
Which is why in the Pfumvudza programme there is one plot for food security and there is also one for you to be able to sell to GMB.
That is already inculcating the commercial mindset in the people.
But we need the delivery mechanism.
That is why we are motorising Agritex physically so that they can be able to get to the farmers easily.
But we also need to motorise their brains through change management so that they become genuine business advisors to farmers.
We similarly need to look at livestock, which is a very important component of the rural livelihood.
Ninety percent of the cattle are in communal areas and the major problem, the triumvirate issues, start with genetics.
Over the years we have seen that cattle in the communal areas are becoming smaller and smaller, so we now need to introduce better genetics, we now need better pastures and disease control.
These three aspects we need to address urgently while also introducing a business mind-set among the communal people so that they begin getting more value from their livestock.
So there are lots of things that we can do in agriculture and I think it is a very exciting moment in agriculture, where we can realistically begin to transform.
His Excellency the President recently launched the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, which seeks to create a US$8,2 billion industry by 2025.
We think that is achievable because we have now set a firm foundation for growth and the expectation is that as we work collectively and collaboratively with all our stakeholder and partners, we will be able to transform agriculture.
We are the most dammed country in Africa; therefore, we must harness that so that we become food secure going ahead.
As I have highlighted, the outcomes of that strategy are basically in six areas.
We want agriculture to contribute 20 percent of the national GDP by 2025 and we can do so by ensuring food and nutrition security, import substitution, increasing exports, increasing value addition and beneficiation, increasing employment and improving livelihoods.
Those are the main outcomes.
This is part of the Accelerated Irrigation Development Programme and already remember we have more than 400 irrigation schemes scattered across the country.
We are revitalising those and establishing 200 hectares per district and its part of this bigger scheme.
We are also looking at the 45 000 hectares of irrigation that are currently idle on the farms and if we can quickly rehabilitate that, it means going into next year we could produce enough wheat, for example.
Also, Kanyemba project is part of the overall accelerated irrigation programme to climate-proof Zimbabwean agriculture.
The projects are in Kanyemba, Middle Sabi, Tugwi Mukosi and many other schemes that we are going to be identifying.
Specifically, in Kanyemba we will be having 200 hectares opened up for summer cropping next month by the 31st of October and the expectation is that the additional 2000 hectares or so will come on stream by winter.
Overally, we are thinking that we will be able to get something in the region of 10 000 to 15 000 hectares in that area so that it becomes irrigable in the not-too-distant future.
Land Audit and Farm Rationalisation
The first land audit is already done and 18 600 units have been done and various recommendations have been proffered, which have been accepted by Cabinet, and we are in the process of implementing those.
So this is an ongoing process of rationalisation.
But the Land Reform Programme itself is irreversible and we have come to the close.
All we are doing now is that in terms of the Constitution that we overwhelmingly adopted in 2013, we are saying that black farmers ought to be considered and where possible, they could be given those back and where it is not possible … there is a committee that is already advising the Minister in terms of SI 62 of 2020 on that matter.
And we are saying those that were protected by BIPPAs we also must consider those applications and again the committee will be able to recommend appropriately to the Minister.
But to the rest of the former farmers it means that they must come and apply for land if they want to be considered.
This is the last of the exercise and it is only a very minute proportion of farmers that is affected.
We think less than 3,5 percent are in this category, so the majority of Zimbabweans they won’t even know that this is taking place.
Tenure and Finance
We have been discussing with the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe in connection with the bankability of the 99-year leases.
But you might have heard recently that Government has resolved that we need to remodel Agribank so that it becomes a Land Bank.
And a Land Bank means that any tenure document is acceptable.
So communal farmers, small-scale farmers, A1, A2 with offer letters will be able to access funding from the Land Bank.
This means that this obviates the need for bankability of the 99-year lease.
Dr Anxious Masuka is the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement. He was speaking to our senior reporter Lincoln Towindo.