The Sunday Mail
Restarting and restructuring the economy has been a priority since November last year.
The agricultural and mining sectors, the country’s largest foreign currency earners, have largely taken the lead in pulling the country out of economic doldrums.
Both sectors are doing very well, with production targets being surpassed.
The journey began in 2000 when Zimbabwe embarked on its land reform programme, a hugely contested move which resulted in the Southern African nation being isolated by the West.
It has been 18 long years since 12,1 million hectares of land —about 31 percent of the prime agricultural land — was redistributed from about 3 500 white former commercial farmers to over 276 600 households.
Unfortunately, the economic mismanagement and hyperinflation of the 2000s did not help the newly empowered black farmers who only had land, passion and very limited capital.
Nevertheless, the resettled farmers saved, invested and re-invested the little they had on only part of their land.
From their limited production, they could not save enough to buy the fertilisers and tractors required for the large farms.
Still, production gradually grew from measly to ample.
Jobs were created along the way. Experience was gained along the way.
It has been close to two decades since then, and the gains of the land reform programme are now clear for everyone to see.
But it took the ambitious Command Agriculture programme to nudge the land reform programme to this current success.
Export incentives, which increased from 5 percent last season to 12,5 percent this season, also helped in breathing life into the sector.
Then there was the Tobacco Input Credit Scheme, which almost trebled from $28 million in 2017 to $70 million this year.
With all these fundamentals in place, tobacco farmers increased from 82 000 last year to over 145 000 this year.
As a result, Zimbabwe is now on the verge of a record-breaking tobacco marketing season.
Deliveries of the golden leaf, at 230 million kilogrammes, are only seven million kg shy of record deliveries made in 2000.
All indications are that this year’s tobacco will set new records for Zimbabwe.
This jump in production of the golden leaf is symbolic as it will be the first time after the land reform programme for the country to realise record deliveries.
But tobacco is not the only success story.
Great things are also happening in cotton production and a revival of the textile industry is on the horizon.
Deliveries of the white gold have since exceeded the 54 000 metric tonnes that were purchased during last year’s marketing season.
The tonnage is expected to increase as deliveries are still trickling in.
This upward trend has been going on for the past three years as Government has been supporting small-scale cotton farmers under the Presidential Inputs Scheme.
In maize production, Zimbabwe produced 2,2 million tonnes in 2017, the highest in two decades.
The nation, which is now food secure as a result, now has a new headache — storage of the grain.
Meanwhile, distribution of free inputs for the 2018/2019 summer cropping season through the Presidential Inputs Scheme has already begun.
Farmers have absolutely no reason for not exceeding this year’s production in the coming cropping season.
Development economist Ian Scoones from the UK’s Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University is one of the many people who have been “genuinely surprised” at the success of the land reform programme after studying this subject with interest.
Scoones is on record remarking to the BBC News that “people were getting on with things in difficult circumstances and doing remarkably well”.
“Difficult circumstances” are no excuse for low production in any sector.
The agricultural sector has proved that.