Marcia Maro da Silva Correspondent
Zimbabwe is one of the countries hard hit by the severe drought that Southern Africa is currently experiencing as a result of the El Nino phenomenon. Droughts usually come with challenges that include food insecurity among many others.
The co-operation of countries to mitigate the effects of the El Nino-induced drought on communities becomes more important.
Through the More Food for Africa programme, Brazil is focused on a new kind of co-operation in the international system. The programme is a result of the Brazil-Zimbabwe co-operation agreement which put in place a $98 million loan facility for the procurement of irrigation equipment, tractors and im- plements.
We take a business partnership approach to economic development as opposed to a donor beneficiary relationship. This way we can achieve a lot and make an impact on people’s lives in a more transformational way.
The partnership programme is in the form of a soft loan to the people of Zimbabwe to help farmers to build resilience, kick-start production and enhance household incomes.
Implementation of the first phase of the More Food for Africa programme that was launched last year is in progress. To date equipment has been installed at 176 irrigation projects across the country.
According to recent reports, some irrigation projects which were initiated only a few months ago are now complete, have produced good crops with farmers expecting bumper harvests. These include Cashel, Chabwino and Chesa-Mutondwe.
Located in the drought-prone Mt Darwin District, Chesa-Mutondwe irrigation scheme stands out as an oasis and a good example of the benefits that the More Food for Africa programme can bring to Zimbabwe. The 50 families and four schools that are farming at the 25-hectare irrigation scheme are expecting an average harvest of three tonnes of maize each. This means that the families will be food secure for the year and will earn income from selling their surplus.
It is very touching to see the results of our work; this programme is a replication of what we developed in Brazil for poor areas to fight hunger, starvation and poverty. The programme was very successful in Brazil and it brought over 40 million people out of poverty over a period of 20 years. As a result, our government decided to share that experience with other countries in the world.
Zimbabwe is the first country in Africa to secure the facility from the Brazilian government. The loan provides low-cost, long-term financing for agriculture at a concessionary interest rate of 2 percent per annum with a grace period of three years and the borrowed amount being payable over 15 years.
The loan, which is guaranteed by the Government of Zimbabwe, will benefit farmers’ groups in the communal areas, the old resettlement schemes and A1 small-scale farmers.
The equipment is being distributed to projects in all of the country’s eight (rural)provinces. The projects were identified after a countrywide needs analysis by technical experts from Brazil and Zimbabwe. Under the agreement, farmers’ groups are required to pay a commitment fee to ensure ownership.
Government’s implementation of the programme has to date gone beyond our expectations. However, the full impact of the programme will take longer to register, we are starting to assess and these results show great effort and commitment on the part of the Government of Zimbabwe. They have moved swiftly to implement the agreement and deliver what is expected under constrained budgetary circumstances.
Under the agreement the Government is investing in infrastructure that includes dams, pipelines, electricity and roads.
Commenting on the initiative, the Minister of of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made, said that the programme will change the face of Zimbabwean agriculture.
He said: “The programme allows us to take advantage of existing water resources and provides motivation to develop new ones so that we can harness these and enhance the capacity to produce crops all year round. This will also mitigate the unpredictability of the weather pattern as we can now apply water stored in dams using the new irrigation equipment.”
The minister also said that Government provided free inputs to farmers only for the first crop to get them started and after that the farmers are expected to plough back the first crop’s proceeds into the next season’s crop.
Loans to farmer’s groups under the More Food for Africa facility are disbursed and managed by Agribank. The bank is charged with putting in place the mechanisms that will ensure that farmers pay back their borrowings.
- Marcia Maro da Silva is the Brazilian Ambassador to Zimbabwe