From Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has said partnerships by all players in the agricultural sector are key to the transformation of industry and ensuring food security on the African continent.
Officially opening the Southern African Confederation of African Farmers Union (SACAU) conference here yesterday, the President challenged farmers’ unions to seek partnerships to stimulate growth and reduce agricultural products imports.
He urged the private sector to come on board and finance agriculture, saying lessons should be learnt from the country’s Command Agriculture Programme which became a success through partnerships with the private sector.
“Transformation of the agricultural sector has the potential to be a catalyst for investments and economic growth through stimulating exports, reduction of poverty, creation of jobs and improving national food security,” said President Mnangagwa.
He challenged farmers’ unions to advocate better agricultural policies and observe agreements such as the Sadc Regional Agricultural Policy and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area both of which seek to stimulate development, food security and create wider markets for Africa.
The President said this was in line with the African Union (AU) global and regional agenda 2063 on socio-economic transformation of the continent.
He said farmers’ unions’ role is key in stirring political will, as he encouraged research that addresses day-to-day challenges that face people.
“In this regard, your role as farmers’ unions is integral because you are a vital link between farmers and decision makers as well as between producers and the markets. You play a pivotal role in research and development on appropriate technology, new farming methods, post-harvest management methods, seed variety development, crop scheduling, proper land use systems.
“I exhort you to increase partnerships and linkages with agricultural institutions of higher learning for more relevant and responsive innovation and research in the agriculture sector,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said the regional agriculture transformation agenda needs collaborative action as countries and stakeholders cannot operate in isolation.
“This conference could not have come at a better time than now when Zimbabwe is trying to modernise and grow agriculture. The theme resonates with the regional and continental aspirations of poverty reduction, food and nutrition security and sustainable development through accelerating the implementation of national agriculture investment plans to spearhead afro based economic recovery in Southern Africa.
“Zimbabwe had suffered stagnation in the last few years but I am pleased to inform you that the resuscitation of the sector is in progress as my government has put in place multi-faceted strategies to modernise and mechanise agriculture. We have recognised that agriculture transformation entails the use of modernised farming practises. Government is ready for win-win collaborations and partnerships to promote agro industry policies and investments,” President Mnangagwa said.
The theme for the conference, which ends with an annual general meeting tomorrow, is: “Trade as a driver of Agricultural Transformation in Southern Africa.”
President Mnangagwa said it is regrettable that African countries spend between $30 billion and $50 billion annually on imports of agricultural products instead of developing the productive capacities necessary for trade.
“This reality gives greater impetus for us all, governments, unions, farmers and the private sector to heavily invest in agriculture to produce for our own needs within the continent as well as for export.
“It is incumbent upon all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to ensure that the region moves from merely increasing productivity for national self-sustenance and food security to levels where we meaningfully contribute to the global food requirements,” said the President.
He urged farmers unions to take time to understand aspects of trade as well as deal with unfair trade practices, elimination of trade barriers and the development of national productive capacities required to produce surplus for export.
President Mnangagwa said maximum utilisation of resources such as water and arable land as well as investment in irrigation are key to growth of the sector.