Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
Government and the European Union (EU) yesterday launched a US$45 million Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme fund which is expected to boost the livestock sector, maximise smallholder farmers’ profits and improve competitiveness on domestic and international markets.
The programme mainly targets small to large scale livestock producers, private sector integrators, processors, research organisations, farmers unions and financial service providers among others. The programme, which is covering all the country’s 10 provinces, will address the weaknesses and gaps in the livestock sector that have prevented the industry from increasing productivity, production and incomes to their potential.
Focus will be on the knowledge and innovation services delivered by agricultural education, extension and research in animal disease control and food safety,institutional reforms and policy alignment.
The ZAGP is focusing on different value chains and projects within Zimbabwe sector namely; beef, poultry, dairy, pig and goats.
The beef enterprise strengthening and transformation programme will be implemented by World Vision, Zimbabwe Agricultural Development Trust, Sustainable Agriculture Technology, Welthungerhilfe and the Livestock and Meat Advisory Council.
Officiating at the launch of the ZAGP fund at Chibero Agricultural College, EU ambassador Timo Olkkonen said the growth of the agricultural sector was key to Zimbabwe’s future development and prosperity.
“Agriculture together with health and governance is one of the three priority sectors of the EU’s development cooperation in Zimbabwe and the ZAGP will be one of our main support programme in this sector. There should be no need for a country with the resources that Zimbabwe has to be dependent on outside food assistance. Zimbabwe should be self-sufficient in terms of food,” he said.
Ambassador Olkkonen said there was need for political willingness to address structural bottlenecks such as security of tenure on land, which was crucial for domestic or foreign investment. He expressed concern over the challenges in the livestock sector which he said were affecting production.
“The price of feedstock has increased to more than 70 percent in one year, which will have a terrible impact on the competitiveness of the feed intensive sectors like pig, poultry and dairy vis a vis other sub sectors; there are also regular outbreaks of animal diseases like Newscastle, foot and mouth diseases and Theileriosis that are not contained by the surveillance and disease protection systems and have significant economic impacts for the value chain and sometimes also on public health.
“Our objective is that this investment amounting to US$45 million will reduce risk perception in the livestock sector and will encourage more investment which will improve productivity and competitiveness in the domestic and regional markets,” he said.
In a speech read on his behalf by Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Mary Mliswa-Chikoka while officially launching the fund, Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said Zimbabwe had taken a deliberate policy to promote investment in the agricultural sector due to its importance to the economy.
Minister Shiri said the livestock sector had the potential to increase the country’s contribution to food security and nutrition, foreign currency earnings as well as the creation of employment throughout the livestock related value chains
He said although the livestock sector continued to record steady growth, there were a number of challenges limiting its contribution to the national economy.