Decline in agric activity hampers economic growth

farm workersYoliswa Dube Bulawayo Bureau
The decline of activity in the agricultural sector has deepened the economic downturn in rural communities which continue to reel under poverty.

Statistics show a 23 percent decrease in the national household income average in rural areas, attributed largely to reduced agricultural activity — the major source of income for most rural areas.

According to a report by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac) 2015, the average household income was $86 for April this year compared to $111 for the same month last year.

The highest average monthly household income was reported in Mashonaland Central province which was pegged at $109 followed by Mashonaland East province at $104.

Matabeleland North province reported the least amount of average income of $55. Statistics show that the average expenditure for all households was $67, with food items costing $31 and non-food items $33.

Food items constituted the greatest share of most rural households’ expenditure at 54 percent compared to the share of non-food items at 46 percent.

Meanwhile, casual labour was ranked the most important source of cash income by all provinces.

Remittances were highly reported in Matabeleland South province which recorded 38 percent followed by Masvingo province at 31 percent and Mashonaland East province at 28 percent.

According to ZimVac, the decrease in household income is as a result of the unfavourable economic climate prevailing in the country, particularly the decline in the agricultural sector, the major source of income for most rural households.

In its conclusions and recommendations, ZimVac says not only are rural households’ incomes relatively low, but they are also highly variable and dependent on vulnerable sources such as weather dependent agriculture and casual labour whose availability and payments are unpredictable.

“Investments in not only expanding rural income sources, but also making them more resilient and predictable are called for to ensure sustained migration of rural households out of poverty,” reads the report.

Although livestock can be an important source of both household food and income, according to ZimVac, its contribution to these in rural Zimbabwe is low due to a relatively low proportion of households owning significant numbers of livestock.

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