Press for quality after achieving sufficiency

09 Dec, 2022 - 00:12 0 Views
Press for quality after achieving sufficiency

The Herald

The thrust to make sure that all Zimbabweans have enough to eat, that all children can go to school, that all families have at least basic shelter and other basic needs is now being modified by the need to upgrade quality.

This makes sense as we work our way up to an upper-middle income economy and country, since the main difference from where we are at now, where most basic needs are met at least at minimum levels, and where we want to be, is that our Vision 2030 sees everything better.

We have passed the first post of providing everything; now we need to move to the next goal of upgrading the quality, not just the quantity.

The Africa Year of Nutrition and its high level meeting in Abidjan provides a focus for conceptualising what is required, as well as the sort of practical steps needed to achieve this.

It has become exceptionally apparent that the practical route is the one being followed by President Mnangagwa.

To improve the quality and food and nutrition a Cabinet committee was set up. The biggest contributions come from two sources, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, which obviously passes on the sort of information of what extra quality is desirable, and what sort of new foods are needed to improve quality.

Then comes the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development that needs to work out how farmers can grow the widening range of food, make money growing it, and ensure that inputs and marketing are available.

In this particular case we do need to be careful. There is a tendency, which we see in urban areas, of when a household’s income moves up from the poverty datum line, more money is usually spent on food, and the range is expanded, but not necessarily in the way that a nutritionist in the Health Ministry or a public health expert would agree was in the right direction.

The proliferation of fast food shops suggests that fried oily food with plenty of salt is the path chosen by too many, which hardly satisfies the need for quality.

If there was more demand for more nutritious snacks then obviously the fast-food industry would swing to meet it.

The problem is not the supplier so much as the customer.

At the more initial stage, of the farmer, we need to be moderately careful as we continue to boost our farm output.

We have now reached self-sufficiency in grains, and while we increase harvests moderately to ensure we always have enough, we need to weigh carefully what we could export and what we simply cannot being at the far end of continent and needing to cross borders to find a port.

One example is probably wheat. We have to grow this under irrigation, which adds to costs.

These, for the internal market, can be covered by the large savings on transport when we do not have to pay for some foreign farmer to deliver wheat to a port, have this loaded onto a ship, pay the ship to travel half-way round the world, unload it at a Southern African port, and then ship it by road or rail to Zimbabwe.

So we can pay the Zimbabwean farmer a bit more. But it is unlikely we can find a customer to pay the extra transport over our farmer price.

This is not a problem. As we become secure in each basic food, we can assess exports and if there is not real market, then we can pay our farmers to expand into other crops. And often these other crops, where they are food crops, will be the sort of food crops that allow significant rises in nutrition.

But moving the whole thrust from enough to higher quality works in all sorts of other areas, and reminds us that progress is often not more of something, but getting something better.

To another essential need. In the 1980s we increased our education sector so that education became a right, not a privilege, and all Zimbabwean won the right to at least four years of high school.

Since then, we have been pushing the quality, sometimes in spurts as extra resources became available and sometime perhaps too slowly.

But over the years we saw things like ECD, more universities, some provision for more technical training, and gradual increases in quality.

The Second Republic has moved a lot faster on a lot of fronts. On the facility side the need for more schools within walking distance is being met, sometimes by direct intervention, sometimes through the devolution agenda where you let the people in a district decide where they really need the next school.

More importantly has been conceptual upgrade to Education 5.0, recognising that education is not about passing, or for that matter not passing, examinations, but rather a preparation for an active, productive and prosperous life.

So innovation, production, doing and actions become far more important, and already the results of this are being seen.

Health is in a similar mode, except that our lowest rung of the primary health system, largely run by local authorities was falling to bits, and medical professionals were becoming ever more frustrated by shortages higher up the line.

A multi-pronged approach, accelerated by the needed national response to Covid-19 but already in progress before the first case, is being implemented at speed.

Already the basic network is already functioning in most areas again, more clinics are being built, often again through devolution but with a serious central input, more district hospitals are being built and others upgraded, shortages are being sorted out at the highest level and generally there is significant improvement each year.

This is reflected in the rising Budget allocations that the Second Republic is making available. Once again the thrust is now on quality and efficiency.

This same approach is being followed right across the line, and more and more needs to be recognised.

Making sure we have enough is a one shot effort. Pressing forward on quality is continuous and eternal, we can never have too high a quality.

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