Lovemore Chikova Assistant Editor
The coming in of President Mnangagwa as the first leader of the Second Republic has revived hopes among Zimbabweans that a new era has dawned on the country.
People are looking forward to a new economy that brings in a new way of doing business, and the President has demonstrated that this is possible judging by the positive movements recorded in various sectors in the short time he has been at the helm.
Of course, there is nothing that stops Zimbabweans from moving forward considering the goodwill that has been demonstrated from various quarters both internally and externally.
What is needed now is to refocus the country’s attention on achieving those goals that seemed to be elusive in the past.
One such a goal is to end hunger that has been stalking the nation for some years now.
It is time that Zimbabwe becomes food secure, because with the availability of food, many other things are likely to fall into place.
Hunger can easily capture the people’s minds and lead them to do the unthinkable.
In fact, there is something ultimately wrong with a person who thinks and makes decisions on an empty belly.
But Zimbabwe’s Second Republic under the tutelage of President Mnangagwa has so many opportunities at its disposal to end hunger and restore the country’s food security.
To achieve that, a number of issues need immediate decisive action by Government.
There should be a marked movement away from the rhetoric of the past few decades where food security became a buzzword, but with very little showing on the ground.
Of course, this excludes the last two seasons when Government started implementing Command Agriculture, which has resulted in the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) starting to re-stock the Strategic Grain Reserves.
The programme was led by President Mnangagwa, who was Vice President then, which makes it easier for further implementation because he is hands on.
President Mnangagwa has set vision 2030 for the attainment of an upper middle-income economy for Zimbabwe, a vision in which food self-sufficiency plays an important role.
Critical questions should now start to be asked around land reform, which achieved a lot by availing land to the landless majority.
The programme was crucial to correct the land ownership imbalances that relegated locals to the periphery, with white settlers taking the most fertile land by force.
While the land reform succeeded in correcting the land tenure injustices, it appears it wasn’t resoundingly successful in achieving food security for the country, that is in the short term.
There are also new farmers holding on to land who are realising they got too much of it. Also gone should be the days when people pride themselves in waving their workmates goodbye on a Friday, going to spend the weekend at the farm where nothing of note is taking place.
Before heading for that farm, one should ask themselves if they are worth owning it in the first place, because owning a farm, whether acquired under the land reform programme or bought by private funds, should not be about bragging, but production.
It is time to let production do the talking because food sufficiency will be determined by a lot of hard work on the part of those who benefited from land reform.
This is why one of the priorities for Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Perrance Shiri should be pursuing the land audit with much vigour.
The land audit should not be about only identifying excess land held by farmers and multiple farm ownership, it should delve deeper into what the farmers are doing to contribute to food production.
Farmers identified to have a potential to do well should be capacitated by Government so that they increase production on their pieces of land.
Those who now view land as a burden should let go and instead take up smaller pieces which they can manage.
In other countries, land is the most expensive property one can buy, but in Zimbabwe, there are some who take the commodity for granted.
There is need for tight monitoring to ensure optimal use of the land, especially in areas that receive good rains and are known to produce more food.
A lot of re-arrangement and re-aligning of land systems is needed to ensure that production becomes the sole reason behind one owning a farm or a plot.
The private sector should also be encouraged to fund agricultural production, but this can only be achieved if there is a clear land tenure.
In this regard, Government should quickly finalise the 99-year leases and make them bankable to enable farmers to borrow from the market.
Apart from refocusing land reform to production, what should be done to uplift agriculture is already known, with some of it laid in agricultural blueprints that never got to be implemented by the previous administration.
Blueprints such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Policy Framework (2012-2032) should be revisited for implementation of provisions that can take the country’s agriculture forward.
Zimbabwe’s weather patterns have not been predictable in the last few decades, with some experts blaming the erratic weather on climate change.
But the fact remains that the country is blessed with numerous water bodies like dams and weirs, with each province hosting one or two big dams.
This means that one of the priorities for Government should be the development of irrigation schemes in all communities where these water-holding structures are found.
A number of such irrigation schemes already exist, but they need urgent rehabilitation and modernisation of equipment to achieve maximum yields.
There are also a number of underutilised dams where new irrigation schemes need to be developed, and this calls for an aggressive approach to ensure investment is attracted to these areas.
The giant Tugwi-Mukosi Dam shared by Chivi and Masvingo districts has the potential to irrigate more than 25 000 hectares, a development that would drastically change the food security situation.
The whole country could benefit from such a massive irrigation project.
What is needed is for Government to move fast, not only on Tugwi-Mukosi, but other areas that require either rehabilitation or establishment of irrigation schemes.
Command Agriculture has been the mainstay of agriculture in the last two seasons, with farmers harvesting more than 1,2 million tonnes of maize in 2016.
In support of Command Agriculture has been the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme, which this season targets to benefit at least 1,8 million households.
Government has been funding these programmes with the help of a few corporates, with Command Agriculture being done on a commercial farming scale.
An option should be available for Minister Shiri to open up Command Agriculture to financial institutions so that as many farmers as possible benefit from the noble programme.
The programme should be viewed as a stop-gap measure, which will in the near future result in farmers being able to achieve high levels of production on their own.
There is no doubt that Command Agriculture performed well beyond expectations in the last two seasons, as it ensured food security and maize self-sufficiency for the country.
There is no more reason why Zimbabwe should regress to food deficit situations again.