EDITORIAL COMMENT: President using Zimbabwean successes to seek reinforcement
WHILE a lot of discussion at COP28 in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates will involve the implementation of the special funds that have been agreed to help developing countries cope with climate change, it is critical that these same countries are seen taking a lead with their own resources.
There are two good reasons for this. The first is more obvious, that the external funds are never going to be enough to the job by themselves and so the countries in trouble need to be able to be making their own contribution, using any external money as a top-up, or even a major top-up, rather than the necessary condition for development.
The second is probably more important, and more subtle, but fits in with the most successful partnership schemes. It is essential that programmes to combat climate change originate in the countries hit by this change, and that the people of these countries take ownership.
It is also important when tapping external funds that those administering these funds see them as helping others help themselves, following policies and programmes that work in those countries with the external funding reinforcing success, rather than trying to create the initial conditions for success and simply enriching external experts and consultants, rather than doing much good for people living with the change.
President Mnangagwa was stressing this approach in his intervention at COP28, making it very clear that Zimbabwe had been pushing ahead fast under his watch to not just mobilise its own resources, but to go a lot further and harness the creativity and innovation of its technical expertise to work out new ways of growing food, new ways of using irrigation water, new ways of working with farmers and others.
Pfumvudza/Intwasa has been a major success, tripling yields for small-scale farmers. While introduced primarily as a driver for food self-sufficiency at both household and national level, it is the most effective programme for rural development, by moving 1,8 million households, 3 million people, out of abject poverty onto the ladder of income earners, farmers who grow crops not to just to feed their families, but to sell and earn money.
The conservation tillage revolution that is at the core of Pfumvudza was carefully driven by smart research, of looking for a better way than what had been used for well over a century with varying degrees of success.
A Pfumvudza plot requires minimum tillage, although very hard work, but will trap more water in the holes when it does rain, and with the mulching will retain a lot more of that water in the soil rather than watch it evaporate and be blown away.
The rest of the programme and concept, and this is where major advances have been made in the last three years, is to ensure that the right crops using the right fertilisers are planted, so that the chances of success are higher in the growing unstable climate conditions farms are facing.
Not all farmers are excited over the crops they have to choose from, but the Government and its experts have been increasingly firm on not allowing people to waste Government-provided inputs and only grow crops listed as suitable for their area, that is ones that have a reasonable chance of producing a harvest even when rainfall is not particularly wonderful.
Where we are still working our way through policies is in irrigation, which has tended to be all or nothing, that is smallholders are on irrigation schemes or get no extra water, and larger-scale farmers tend to irrigate an entire crop, like winter wheat which has to be 100 percent irrigated.
It seems likely that with more El Ninos and other adverse weather conditions we are going to need to make supplementary irrigation more common and more usual, that is we partly irrigate a crop, but still use to maximum effect whatever rain does fall.
This means that a dam and irrigation infrastructure can irrigate at least twice as many hectares.
Fortunately, our new agricultural methods centred on Pfumvudza, and as President Mnangagwa noted on building up the indigenous cattle breeds, have been regarded as work in progress with flexibility and innovation seen as a virtue to make them better, rather than trying to fix them in concrete.
We are now selling the concepts around Africa, showing real farmers growing real crops and earning real money. This is an African solution for African conditions and African communities that any country can adapt to its own needs.
If there is support from the external funds, still being created, then that can be supporting success on the ground, putting in more irrigation faster or for that matter building silos to store surpluses in good seasons.
Zimbabwe in other sectors has seen the benefit of having a decent home-grown programme that not only works but can also attract support to make it work better and faster.
The battle against HIV in Zimbabwe has been developed in the main by Zimbabweans, with a healthy chunk of the funding coming via the AIDS levy on income tax and other State resources.
But we have also been fortunate that the desire to reinforce success has seen other international partners, some from countries that are not necessarily Zimbabwe’s best friends, willing to come in and support functional, working and corruption-free programmes.
It seems obvious that if you are a contributor to such schemes, you want to make sure every dollar you contribute works hard and does its job.
This is likely to be the attitude of those who will be running the large international funds that are now being implemented and put together. No one wants to throw money away or make largely empty gestures, but many are probably willing to help those who would find additional help useful and seem to know what they’re doing to do it faster.
In other words the programmes and policies being developed around the world to limit global warming and combat the climate change that has already taken place, and which will continue to take place as the source is tackled, must be efficient, home-grown and home-administered to high standards.
This is because, however, many billions end up in these funds, the bulk of the effort and innovation, along with a good chunk of the cash, will have to come from the countries that need the funds to move ahead more effectively and faster.
We are not looking for the saviour to parachute in with the guidebook, but rather partners who can assess our own programmes and then reinforce our own successes.
President Mnangagwa has been taking this approach, in a very forward way, pointing out what Zimbabwe is already doing and why, where Zimbabwe is scoring significant successes, and then inviting international assistance, and private sector investment for that matter, to reinforce those successes.