Agriculture: A lot needs to be addressed

It is no longer viable to rely on rain-fed agriculture in this era of climate change and its devastating effects

It is no longer viable to rely on rain-fed agriculture in this era of climate change and its devastating effects

Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker Sir

The fact that the serious effects of climate change coincided with the land redistribution exercise have resulted in land redistribution critics trying to shift blame for poor yields to the land reform programme, in the process casting aspersions that indigenous farmers have failed.

If as Zimbabwe we sit on our hands and mourn about climate change hoping that our tears will irrigate our crops and in the process reduce the effects of nature, then we may as well wave goodbye to common sense.

Mr Speaker Sir, climate change has been with us for years and it’s here to stay, so failure to adapt to this phenomenon that we can’t stop will leave us as losers.

With the food assessment that was done in January this year, it is beyond any shadow of doubt that the effects of climate change have reached previously unseen heights.

Indications that more than 3 million people would need food aid worth about $1,5 billion goes to show how devastating the effects of climate change have been of late particularly due to the El Nino problem.

It also goes without saying that Government has tried in a small way to adapt to climate change, for instance the Brazilian agricultural equipment facility that has seen machinery being distributed to smallholder farmers.

But Mr Speaker Sir, the issue is not about the gesture but the extent to which we are prepared to go as a country in adapting to climate change.

It is clear that there are a lot of things that we have not adequately addressed in dealing with the scourge of climate change.

For instance, we may have to bring in irrigation machinery but as long as we have not invested heavily in water harvesting, then my humble submissions are that the machinery could end up going to waste as water sources are drying up or are non-existent.

It is of paramount importance that Government immediately invests in water harvesting instead of preaching about it without corresponding action on the ground.

Water harvesting is one area that stands in between our success or failure as a country given that our economy is agricultural-based.

It is no longer viable to rely on rain-fed agriculture in this era of climate change and its devastating effects.

The fact that the serious effects of climate change coincided with the land redistribution exercise have resulted in land redistribution critics trying to shift blame for poor yields to the land reform programme, in the process casting aspersions that indigenous farmers have failed.

In their quest to justify their claims, they have asked why Zimbabwe is now importing maize from Zambia when the two countries are experiencing the same climatic conditions.

They have even gone to the extent of claiming that the farmers who are making Zambia’s agriculture tick are former white farmers who were kicked out of Zimbabwe at the height of the fast track land redistribution exercise.

Mr Speaker Sir, while Government has put in place a number of mechanisms to boost farmers’ performance such as the farm mechanisation exercise and input distribution facilities over the years, there are other critical areas where we fall short.

Of particular note is our failure to invest in irrigation as a whole instead of just machinery.

In this day and age, relying on rain-fed agriculture will not bring the desired results because of climatic factors that have been ruthless.

It is, therefore, important that Government invest heavily in water sources if our agriculture is to perform.

Mr Speaker Sir, one cannot ignore the fact that over the years Government and its development partners have constructed thousands of dams across the country particularly in rural areas.

However, due to siltation some of the dams are no longer able to retain water for longer periods.

It is, therefore, critical that they are rehabilitated.

It is critical that Government wastes no time in adapting to climate change because it is happening faster and its adverse effects are already being felt.

The other bone of contention are misplaced priorities.

For instance, Government was quick to look for $200 million for food relief as a result of the hunger facing the country but did not express the same zeal in mobilising resources to support farmers.

It is indisputable that food relief is not sustainable and as long as we don’t address irrigation issues, the country’s agriculture will continue to fail meaning that Zimbabwe will continue to source funding for food relief in the process exporting the little foreign currency that we have.

Imagine how far the $200 million would have gone in mobilising resources for farmers.

Or at least dedicating that money to the rehabilitation of water sources for sustainable agriculture instead of the unsustainable food handouts that we are quick to address.

What people need to appreciate is that the boom in Zambia’s agriculture is driven by commercial agriculture with up to standard irrigation facilities – from water sources to machinery.

The financial sector has also not helped matters as their interest rates are too high making it impossible for farmers to access funding given that their crops may take about half a year to mature for the market.

This is the reason huge tracts of arable land are lying idle with only small portions under cultivation.

Mr Speaker Sir, the fast track land redistribution exercise needs to be followed up with a well-thought out land reform exercise where all components of agriculture are addressed, from funding, infrastructure, inputs and market to security of tenure.

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  • ARiverside

    useless..you did not answer a pertinent question which is why is it the Zambian commercial agricultural sector is thriving and ours is not. They have dams and so do we.

    It is my opinion that land is in the hands of people who lacks the expertise and desire to farm the land.