More incentives can boost agric production

Sydney Kawadza Agriculture Focus
The revolutionary nature of Zimbabwe’s agrarian revolution is indisputable and that the main objectives of the reforms were achieved.

That is a fact!

But should we sit down and relax now that our farmers, with Government support, have started finding their feet in pushing the fight for food self-sustenance?

The farmers have proved that they are in the game to stay and have to be kept in it for good. It is a fact that agricultural production is the mainstay of any country’s economic development.

The Chinese did it after Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution when Deng Xiaoping and the reformers decided that economic development was anchored on agricultural productivity.

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty” note that when Deng and his group had accomplished their political revolution, they set their targets on the economy.

The first port of call for Deng and the reformers, according to Acemoglu and Robinson, was agriculture which, by 1983, the household responsibility system, which would provide economic incentives to farmers, was universally adopted.

They further state that in 1985, the mandatory State purchasing of grain was abandoned and replaced by a system of more voluntary contracts while administrative control of agricultural prices was greatly relaxed in 1985.

This led, they further noted, to massive take off of the rural economy with the introduction of incentives leading to a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity.

By 1984, they state, grain output was one-third higher than in 1978, though fewer people were involved in agriculture. We have, as a country, put China as the benchmark for our economic development through the Look East Policy.

Achievements made by China after Deng and the Reformers who took over control of the party and government are still enduring with the Asian economic giant dominating world economics.

We also need to note that it is through agricultural production that the economy in China rose because the political leadership and government prioritised productivity to kick-start development.

Zimbabwe has already started looking in the direction of incentivising production through the Presidential Input Support Scheme and the Command Agriculture Programme.

The success of these programmes can never be over-emphasised. Word within Government circles is pointing at engaging the Diaspora so that it can participate in programmes, especially agricultural production. Many Zimbabweans, especially those based in South Africa, have contributed immensely to that country’s development.

Zimbabweans working in South Africa’s agricultural industry are performing wonders that their efforts have been recognised by the highest of offices in that country.

Professor Sikhalazo Dube of the International Livestock Research Institute believes commercialisation of the value chain, especially in cattle production, is the way to go.

He says the provision of incentives to livestock farmers, which includes a re-look at the various production and marketing costs such as levies was also necessary.

“Improvement of market infrastructure and reduction of transaction costs is also essential. To me development of markets and market linkages is also vital,” he says.

He further argues that when the production environment is improved, the livestock production-minded Diaspora will find its niche and use its networks to improve trade in livestock products. “Frankly, l am more for the incentivising of value chain as a whole than just for the sake of Diaspora participation,” he said.

Prof Dube has introduced various programmes in Mozambique, Swaziland and Malawi that have been so successful that farmers in these countries realised thousands of US dollars through activities such as pen fattening.

Experts like South Africa-based Dr Florence V. Nherera-Chokuda could provide the necessary expertise as a senior researcher working on dairy cattle nutrition at the ARC-Animal Production Institute.

There is also Professor Kennedy Nzama of Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape who has also led a number of research programmes we believe can be of utmost importance to Zimbabwe.

There are several other professionals doing exceptional work in the field of agricultural production and it’s obvious that they do not mind assisting Zimbabwe in its endeavour to turn around the economy.

The Rhodesian government used to support farmers to ensure agriculture anchored the economy. The Diaspora has so much to contribute to the development of our economy and there is no need to hesitate in engaging it for their input.

Those abroad can send their money here, but this does not measure to the expertise they possess in developing various sectors of the economy, especially agricultural production.

In livestock production, cross breeding of the different breeds for Zimbabwe to regain its European market, and Zimbabwean experts based outside the country can do that for us.

The same can be done to various sectors of our agricultural economy where we keep the momentum is ensuring that production is maintained.

Regaining our status as the breadbasket of Southern Africa is within reach and it is only the need to involve all Zimbabweans in our efforts to get to the destiny.

The Diaspora would also be complimenting efforts being made by various research institutions here, including the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (Sirdc) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics based in Harare and Matopos, respectively.

We have the will, the energy and all that is needed is to capture every Zimbabwean who can contribute to the turnaround of our economy.

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