Conrad Mwanawashe Bumper Harvest
An assessment by the Presidential Land Review Committee on the Implementation of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme, 2000-2002 better known as The Utete Report 2003 pointed to the need to transform the agriculture sector into a vibrant and driver of economic remodelling. The Presidential Land Review Committee was officially inaugurated by President Mugabe on May 14, 2003 to, among other objectives to assess progress achieved in the implementation of the Land Reform Programme as a whole; the extent to which policy objectives of the programme and principles underlying it, as contained in the guiding documents were achieved and implemented; and recommended measures necessary to address any of its administrative and material shortcomings.
In Part IV on General and Overarching Issues, the Utete Report makes recommendations that Government and its partners need to revisit as the recommendations have potential to change the agricultural set up of Zimbabwe and in turn improve agricultural production to the extent of achieving food self-sufficiency.
Of particular interest is that the Utete Report makes reference to the importance of planning for the transformation of Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector and reform of key institutions of Government involved in agriculture and water resource development and management, among other issues.
The process of transforming Zimbabwe’s agriculture, following the completion of the fast track land reform programme, will involve a greater reliance on efficient input and output delivery systems and a smooth integration of agriculture with other sectors of the domestic, regional and international economy.
According to the report, agricultural transformation will not occur in the absence of sustainable productivity growth in agriculture which will depend on the successful development of key partnerships and alliances between Government and private stakeholder groups, strong institutional arrangements, research and developments, market linkages and human capacity.
Strategic goals for the agricultural sector highlighted in the report include the need to ensure food self-sufficiency and food security at all times through adequate production of staple food crops in particular maize, wheat, sorghum, millets, oil seeds, livestock, fruit and vegetables.
The need to profitably generate adequate foreign exchange earnings through the production of exportable commodities in which Zimbabwe has demonstrated its comparative advantage, mainly sugar, cotton, citrus, horticulture, beef, tobacco, paprika, soya beans and groundnuts; and the need to stimulate the manufacturing sector through effective demand for factors of production (seed, fertiliser, machinery chemicals, irrigation equipment), and providing raw materials for the industrial sector (milling, processing, packaging, retailing) are some of the strategies mooted in the report.
This is where the $500 million Command Agriculture dovetails with the Utete Report.
Command Agriculture targets 400 000 hectares throughout the country dedicated to maize production this season for a yield of at least two million tonnes.
Going forward, Command Agriculture targets to also include soya beans and wheat as Government seeks to ensure food self-sufficiency within three years.
The Utete Report brings to the fore the wisdom of modelling Command Agriculture into the docking point for agricultural transformation in Zimbabwe.
It is still not too late for Government and its partners to revisit the Utete Report and implement recommendations therein.
This will help to connect a number of initiatives that are currently going on in the sector.
But as the Utete Report says growth of the agricultural sector will depend on the successful development of key partnerships and alliances between Government and private stakeholder groups, strong institutional arrangements, research and developments, market linkages and human capacity.
The synergies between Government and the private sector will help to determine policy direction to take, policies to enact and promote.
Once there has been stakeholder involvement in policy development it will attract buy in and implementation would not be resisted.
It therefore is not too late revisit the Utete Report with a view to taking it forward with the participation of all stakeholders.
Interestingly, the Utete report identifies institutional framework for agricultural service provision as one of the key pillars for the transformation of the agricultural sector.
The committee argued that the institutional framework for transforming Zimbabwe’s agriculture should include revamping the structures and operations of present public institutions, creating new ones where feasible, and fostering public private partnership in the delivery of essential services.
Furthermore, it says good policies and programmes can become totally ineffective if the public institutions that implement them do not function properly or are disconnected.
Therefore, for agricultural transformation to work, the starting point is to re-define the structures, strengths and capacities of key public institutions responsible for agriculture.
There is a strong argument that turning the Command Agriculture concept into a strong, broad institution could help alleviate some of the bureaucracies and challenges in effecting agricultural transformation.
Existing public institutions including ministries, parastatals and other Government agencies such the Grain Marketing Board and ARDA need to be restructured and new institutions created (Agricultural Development Bank, Agriculture Marketing Council, among others, in order to effectively execute a comprehensive plan for the agricultural sector.
In light of global developments in agriculture related to technological advancement, climate change and other natural disasters the development of human capital becomes critical for achieving agricultural growth.
Therefore, an accelerated skills development and farmer training programme will be an essential part of the plan. The Utete Report also argues that the rapid transformation of the agricultural sector will also hinge upon the agricultural research and technology transfer and agricultural inputs and financial services.
Now that Command Agriculture has become the rallying cry for an agricultural revolution in the country, it may be wise to consider the transformation of the sector under its purview.
Command Agriculture could be the docking point for transformation judging with its expected success in its first season. It would make economic and agricultural sense to collapse all agricultural sector initiatives into the Command Agriculture programme for ease of planning and implementation.