The logical start for agriculture is Vision 2030 as enunciated by President Mnangagwa, that is, Zimbabwe must emerge as a prosperous, empowered and diversified upper middle income society.
Broadly, agriculture is in a good space, and it will grow at the envisaged seven to 10 percent annually in order to accelerate the attainment of the President’s vision.
One of the other issues that are cardinal to this development is that it is agricultural development that must lead to rural industrialisation; it is rural industrialisation that must lead to rural development; and it is rural development that must facilitate the attainment of Vision 2030.
Empowering the people out of poverty
Agriculture, we believe, is at the epicentre for transformation, precisely because 70 percent of Zimbabweans are in rural areas. And, they daily eke livelihoods from agriculture. So, it is agriculture that must power these people out of poverty into food security territory, and subsequently into income generation for the realisation of Vision 2030.
Then, we have the resettled farmers, the old resettlement and A1 farmers, who are already in agro-ecologically important regions in terms of rainfall. They are already producing some surplus.
We, therefore, want this category of farmers to become commercially oriented, so that they can produce surplus year in, year out, so that they can see farming as a business.
The first group is these 2,7million households; 11 million Zimbabweans in rural areas, who are subsistence farmers for which the Government has to come in with social interventions to uplift their production.
The second category are the A1 and old resettled farmers, who produce surplus, but are not commercial farmers.
Then, the third category are the A2 farmers. A2 farming is a business model. So, our expectation is that these people must be perennially successful business people. So, we have strategies for these three sectors.
Starting with the first sector of the communal households, the 2,7 million. We know that the rainfall pattern has changed. Zimbabwe is predicted to become drier in the seasons ahead. Therefore, we must climate proof our agriculture through conservation farming, and we have doubled this through the Pfumvudza/ Intwasa programme.
In the first year of implementation, we have seen doubling of yields of maize and sorghum under Intwasa. And, even in a dry year and prolonged dry spell, the yields under Intwasa, for me, were 1 340kg per hectare versus a paltry 600kg per hectare on conventional. We also saw on sorghum almost a tonne on Pfumvudza Intwasa as compared to less than half a tonne on conventional.
Clearly, climate proofing agriculture must be consolidated, and we will do so this year, because what is grown in any agro-ecological region must be determined by the region. Equally, what is financed by the Government in an agro-ecological region must not be determined by what the farmer wants, but by the needs and requirements of the agro-ecological region. Once we climate proof that way it becomes more precise.
Farmer field schools
We are also going to establish 5 000 farmer field schools. Each Agritex officer will lead practice. In the past we had Agritex officers as extensionists and trainers.
Now, we have changed our whole extension system from Agricultural Extension 2.0 for extension and training to agricultural education for development to include entrepreneurship, innovation, research and development.
Hence, the Agritex worker will lead in a farmer field school in their 300 farmer group, and will teach best management practices before the farmers go out to do similar. That’s for crops.
And for veterinary, we have 4 000 veterinary and livestock development field schools; one at each dip tank. We no longer have a dip tank being a place for disease control, but it is also a place where best practices are taught on application of tick grease and processing of stock feeds, so that farming becomes a business, even in communal areas.
Water as a human right, economic enabler
Then, we have an exciting event for this group again; what has been dubbed the Presidential Rural Development Programme. This looks at water as a right and an economic enabler.
It is in this regard that we will be drilling 35 000 boreholes. One in each of the 35 000 villages. The President launched this in Mangwe, Matabeleland South last year. And, I will be going around the country doing the provincial launches, because some of the 40 rigs that were given to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority for this purpose have arrived and the remainder will be arriving mid-August.
We are excited by this project. Each village will have an associated one hectare garden, and will be able to generate income in addition to getting additional protein.
We will also be launching the Presidential Rural Poultry Scheme shortly to be able to assist with protein needs. Also, the business from indigenous poultry will be launching the Presidential Goat Pass-on Scheme later in the year, so that livestock becomes a business. That is what is happening in the communal areas.
In the resettlement areas and A1s, we have said we want them to become commercially orientated businesspeople. We also have specific interventions where they are able to access Pfumvudza/ Intwasa inputs.
In the A2 sector, we now want annual production and productivity returns to be completed, so that we can understand the specific circumstances of each farmer for intervention to be better tailored to improve what they do. The financing for this sector comes largely from Government guarantees through CBZ Bank and AFC Bank. And, there is an element of private sector financing, because 40 percent of what is produced by off-takers should be secured through their contract farming requirements.
This is what we are doing largely, and this we have dubbed the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy. But, there are enablers for this. We are doing the accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Programme where in the next three years we anticipate that we will have 350 000 hectares under irrigation. We must be able to do at least 50 000 hectares each year. We are slightly behind. We have resources this year for 25 000/21 000 hectares, and we are beginning to mobilise additional resources under the Irrigation Development Alliance.
Also, we are accelerating dam construction. We now have the new perspective that the dam is not the project, but what the water is intended to do is the project.
So, unlike in the past as you saw on Tugwi-Mukosi we built the lake, and then we commissioned, and two years down the line the water has not been activated. Now, concurrently we pound the water, build the dam, we are doing irrigation water development, drilling water, fisheries development, and hydro power development.
This is the rural development thrust, which is why our ministry has now been renamed the ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development precisely because of this thrust where no one, no place, no village and no household is left behind.
You have seen in the Gwayi-Shangani Dam development that we are already talking about the 252km pipeline from Gwayi-Shangani to Bulawayo and a treatment works. And, we are talking about irrigation in the five districts that this irrigation line will traverse.
So, this is the new concept. You don’t have to wait to complete a dam before you do the associated works for which the dam is being constructed.
We are also looking at the major dams: the 158 dams that we have; and we are coming up with an investment framework to be able to crowd-in the private sector to assist the Government in accelerating the irrigation thrust.
We are also looking at the 45 000 hectares existing on A1 and A2 farms, where there is already irrigation infrastructure, but you just need rehabilitation to bring that to life. There is a Statutory Instrument put in place to try and manage the legislative environment and accelerate irrigation development.
The other important enabler is mechanisation. Mechanisation, for a very long time, has been looked at as mechanisation at a large scale, which is A2.
In this regard, we are accelerating the mechanisation agenda. We are bringing in 3 000 tractors by August. We have already brought in over 1 000 tractors under the Belarus and John Deere facilities. I expect 1 337 tractors to arrive in the next two months.
Already over 80 of the tractors are in the country, and these will be distributed via financial institutions. This is one of the transformations that we have done. We have moved from Command Agriculture to the National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme, where instead of the Government giving direct inputs to farmers, we have now created discipline among farmers. For sustainability they can go through financial institutions through Government-backed, Government guaranteed production schemes through CBZ Bank and AFC Bank.
This is how they are going to be accessing the equipment which they repay over a three-year period with a 15 percent deposit, and the deductions being done at point of sale with the GMB.
We have a range of 80-150 horsepower tractors that are coming through. We also have combine harvesters that are coming through. Associated with that is the local manufacture of the other implements.
In the past we used to import even the disc harrows, but we said that we need to localise the production of these attachments, and only the complicated units, the tractor-combine units and perhaps the planters.
We have also established a group called the Mechanisation Development Alliance. There are about eight/nine local companies where we are looking at a generic framework for mechanisation.
We are looking at the whole mechanisation value chain from land preparation units, infield units, harvesting units, dryers, and storage units. As you know, the Government has revised the strategic grain reserves from the 750 000 tonnes to 1,5 million tonnes physical store at the Grain Marketing Board made up of 1,2 million tonnes of maize and 300 000 tonnes of traditional grains.
An exciting aspect of the mechanisation issues is mechanisation at the smallholder level. For the century-old invention called a plough, or a hoe, those have become limiting factors in terms of increasing production and productivity at household level in communal areas.
Thus, we are now bringing in new innovation: the two-wheel tractors, the direct seeders for conservation tillage. You will be seeing these exciting developments being launched shortly.
On tractors, we have about 10 000 working units in the country, and we have estimated that we need anywhere between 30 000 and 40 000 units for the large scale. We have 2,7 million households who are still using a plough, who are still using a hoe. And, a recent survey by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) has shown that about half of the households do not own cattle.
Therefore, they struggle with tillage. Hopefully, Pfumvudza/Intwasa can assist. But, mechanisation of Pfumvudza/Intwasa itself is a must, and we are importing 600 units that we will give to service providers in villages; two-wheel tractors.
And, we think that in this space we require at least 35 000 units to be able to mechanise the rural areas so that we increase productivity.
Agriculture and information communication technology
The transformation of agriculture cannot be complete without the ICT aspect. We have an agriculture information management system that will be a whole ministry approach. We are looking at the crop area and yield assessment system; we are looking at livestock information management systems, including electronic tagging to deter thefts. We are looking at water resources, management systems; where the dams are, flood levels warning. We will be able to prevent disasters, and also know which points are working and which are not working.
We are doing a soils information management system, and with the help of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, we have revised agro-ecological regions to take climate change into account. But now one of the biggest issues in terms of crop production is soil PH, and Zimbabwe inherently very low in soil PH. We now have an algorithm for the whole country to ensure that farmers are able to get precise information about what they ought to do, and when they ought to apply lime in their specific circumstances.
On the horticulture side, we have the Horticulture Development Plan, which is the Presidential Rural Development Component, and conventional horticulture. We are re-establishing our markets. At peak we exported about US$200 million worth of horticulture products, and we went down to about US$30 million or so. Now, we are rebooting, and we are looking at a whole lot.
Also, we have a horticulture working group within the ministry. Further, we had representations from the industry about the retention scheme, which is a subject of discussion with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe that sets the retention levels, having looked at a variety of sectors.
But, in terms of the horticulture growth plan, we have received additional support from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development through the SDR allocation of US$30 million to be able to grow and accelerate access of the money by farmers in the sector for the Horticulture Conventional Recovery Plan.
99-year leases now automatic
The annual production and productivity return forms completed by farmers are now the basis for accessing a 99-year lease. In the past farmers used to apply for 99-year leases, and the process was very slow. Now it’s automatic for a farmer to get a 99-year lease. It is again something that we are looking into. In the past as well we just focused on the maximum farm size for a particular region, but we have never defined the minimum viable unit for a specific locality called a farm.
Taking the youths along
Then, there is something for the youth in terms of land. The land reform programme is largely complete but now we are redistributing land for production and productivity. The focus is that the land now has been given, now we need to move to the next stage, which is production and productivity. It is in this regard that now we have set new and clear parameters of assessing the additional land for redistribution.
We are targeting multi-farm ownership, abandoned farms, underutilised farms, and derelict farms. For now we are leaving productive farms, because the focus should be production and productivity.
And, it is this agronomic assessment of a minimum viable unit that is exciting which has led to additional land being available to those that wish to have land. For the youth, we now have revised land policy guidelines issued last year where for the first time we have a quota for youths. So, 20 percent of the land is reserved for the youth. This in addition to the 20 percent that is already reserved for veterans of the liberation struggle.
This is quite exciting as we are moving to a phase where we would like the youth to go through the 10 provincial integrated youth development centres countrywide. The President launched this in January, and gave the first 700 youths a heifer each, so that they settle on the farm.
Youths who want land will go through these provincial integrated development centres. Fully developed, they would be able to appreciate farming as a business, look at the value chains they want; horticulture, cropping, livestock.
We are working now with the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, and hopefully, Empower Bank, so that by the time they leave integrated youth centres they would have identified a value chain, done a business plan, and there is financing for them. We then give them a piece of land, so that they can hit the ground running.
That is very innovative, unlike the “Jambanja” years where we went onto the farm first, and then decided what to do, and started looking for financing. So, we are creating youths who will be bequeathed with the land, skills and knowledge to run farming as a business.
But, if you look at the whole agricultural value chain, from inputs and finance to production and productivity issues, to storage, logistics and everything else, to markets and trade, there are vast opportunities created through the Land Reform Programme by the Second Republic.
This was aimed at ensuring that opportunities in agriculture create the environment for the growth of the sector. We had envisaged that agriculture would grow from a US$5,6 billion industry to a US$8,2 billion one by 2025, but because of the stellar performance last year we are already a US$8 billion industry.
However, the issues are that the volumes produced for the major crops such as maize and traditional grains every year are still tied to the fortunes associated with a season. With better climate proofing, we will assure and ensure that this nation has sufficient food, whether we have enough rains or not, through the Accelerated Irrigation Programme.
You will see lots of exciting things in this space, including the innovative irrigation schemes that are now run under the Vision 2030 accelerator model. There are over 450 smallholder irrigation schemes throughout the country. In the past these irrigation schemes, by virtue of not being viable, would break down every four or five years, and the Government would come in and repair them.
Therefore, we are overhauling the whole governance system. We have made 287 of these schemes viable which have now been handed over to the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority. All our parastatals have been clustered into restructure, reform and transform categories. We have seen exciting things with ARDA, the Agricultural Marketing Authority, ZINWA, and every other parastatal in the agricultural space. The twelve of them have been transformed to ensure that they complement the ministry’s vision, and accelerate the attainment of Vision 2030.
We are also creating a new marketing platform: the merchandise exchange, the commodities exchange which will then set the pricing, price discovery for other products that are not controlled; something that is exciting in terms of the marketing side of these commodities.
Let’s talk about the pricing model: the production is happening largely under perhaps four categories; the 2,7 million households, and from this year onwards 400 000 peri-urban farmers will also benefit from the Presidential Input Scheme, which is a productive social investment scheme where they do not pay. This is a contract between the President and those households to produce sufficient food to feed themselves, and the surplus to be delivered to the Grain Marketing Board.
Then, we look at the A2s. The 80 or so percent is financed through Government guaranteed schemes by AFC and CBZ. Then, we have the private contractors coming in. At the end of the growing period we then determine the price using a cost-plus pricing model, and we verify the reasonability of this pricing mechanism through the import parity comparison.
We then say there must be a 15 percent return for the efforts of the farmer. We believe that is an important pricing model under the current circumstances where the input costs are fluctuating, and where Zimbabwe is still a high production base.
If you look at the commodity exchange, we started with the warehouse receipt system, and now we have moved the commodity exchange. You can deposit your warehouse receipt for non-contracted maize, because the schemes that I have spoken about: the Presidential Input Scheme, the Government guaranteed, the private sector financed. But, there are also individuals who finance their own maize production, and for purposes of interpretation of SI 145 of 2019, we say these are constructors in their own right.
So, if you are able to prove that you are not constructed under PIP under the Government guaranteed schemes or the private sector, then you are free to sell. And you can submit the maize wherever you want.
What we are looking at is food security. We said for now let us leave the major food security crops out of the commodity exchange. The commodity exchange does not finance production, it finances purchase. So, what we want is to get more players to finance the production side. Once production is taking place, and the farmers are at a level where they can now look for price discovery, then will be able to open up more products for the commodities exchange. The Government has an interest in it, since we have shareholdings of 20 percent. So, it is something that we believe in.
Contract farming and the auction system
Let us look at the context first. In 2003/2004 tobacco production had plummeted to 48 million kilogrammes from a peak of 239 million kilogrammes from 1998/1999.
So, we had to look at a mechanism of financing tobacco in the absence of collateral-based lending; based on a farm or a house in town, because of the Land Reform Programme. That is how we came up with the contract financing model, where off-takers financed the product, provided agronomic advice in the field, and then purchased the product. This has now led to the growth of the tobacco industry to the record for the country that we achieved in 2019 or so of 260 million kilogrammes.
Certainly, the contact system has assisted the tobacco industry to rebound. About 85 percent of the tobacco is produced by smallholder farmers. That’s the Land Reform Programme in action. At least 135 000 farmers will this year get US$600 million, largely from contractors, because 96 percent of tobacco is grown under contract.
However, the auction system had its own role. It played the price discovery mechanism. And, if you are contracted there were differences in the past seasons where the contract price for similar grades was higher than the price paid at auction. This year it’s the opposite. Auction is actually paying higher than the contract, and marginally. So, the average price is currently US$3, slightly firmer at the auction as compared to contract.
That is what we want to see, because the price paid at contract must follow the price paid at auction. But if the price at the auction is depressed it is not truly reflective of the competition we would want to see.
The Government has come up with the Tobacco Transformation Plan, which has certain elements. Firstly, because we produce quality flavour-styled tobacco, we would like to see the industry grow to 300 million kilogrammes annually. Our target this year is 275 million kilogrammes, and I think we are on course to achieve that, which should be a record for the country.
Secondly, we want to localise the financing of tobacco, which means that we will be able to get more tobacco on auction. The Government is leading in this process by committing, through the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, 12 000 to 15 000 hectares this year to that localisation plan. The US$60 million seed money that was anticipated is the subject of negotiation with financial institutions for the 12 000 to 15 000 hectares that we are working with.
We hope that we will be able to rope in more financial institutions, looking for value of investment. I understand that banks have substantial amounts in United States dollars that they could invest in this product where they could be able to get more in return.
To ensure that whoever puts money in the tobacco industry gets their money back, this season we are putting additional legislation to ensure that we deter side marketing and instill discipline in the sector.
Regarding TIMB as both a regular and player, let me hasten to say that in developmental states, the state ought to be both a facilitator and an actor because there is a need to lead by example. Where the private sector is unable to lead, the Government must step in and lead. And, this is a temporary aspect. We want to show that it is possible to do that.
However, I don’t think the TIMB will not be able to do this in the long term. It is simply to be able to set up a system to ensure that the localisation happens and others can come into the system. This is exactly what the TIMB did in 2004 through the ticks programme, tobacco inputs credit scheme. When the contract system was not working well, the Government came in to establish that. Now, 96 percent of the product (tobacco) is grown by contractors.
So, it is just leading the way, I am sure we will be able to crown out the private sector as we go along.
Value addition, beneficiation
We are also looking at value and addition and beneficiation. Our tobacco is worth so much when it is exported and is made into cigarettes. Estimates are that the tobacco that we export for about US$1 billion is worth at least US$15 billion when it leaves the country. And, one of the aspects of the Tobacco Transformation Plan is to ensure that we do value addition and beneficiation, so that by 2025/2026, we are able to get about US$5 billion from our tobacco.
Then the other aspect, of course, is the sustainability and traceability issue. Because 85 percent of our tobacco is grown by smallholder farmers, their curing systems are through use of firewood. We are, therefore, perhaps looking at two aspects.
Firstly, we must come up with curing facilities that use less firewood. And, secondly, we must look into alternative curing fuel. And, we said all contractors must now supply coal. We are also looking into alternatives to coal. Then we are looking at aspects related to sustainability; to say, ‘We have cut so many trees to cure tobacco, and farmers are likely to cut more trees to cure tobacco in the future’.
So, we have begun an afforestation programme within the tobacco industry. The Government also now levies each farmer, and extracts that money and passes it on to the Forestry Commission for it to be able to assist in the afforestation efforts.
This is what is happening in the tobacco space. We are also mindful of the framework convention on tobacco control, and driven by the World Health Organisation, to reduce and eventually eliminate tobacco production, because of the perceived harm to people through smoking.
There is a lot happening in the tobacco space. Equally, there is a lot happening in the cotton space, because we believe cotton is an important crop for rural transformation.
Alternatives to tobacco
Coming to the Tobacco Transformation Plan in relation to the WHO and its framework convention on tobacco control, with their desire to see tobacco smoking eliminated, and, therefore, production eliminated, Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, is so dependent on tobacco that we want to see tobacco smoking increasing.
Fortunately, globally tobacco smoking is increasing, and on average, at about one percent in terms of smokers. Zimbabwe’s tobacco is flavour-styled, and is imported by 60 countries. It is, therefore, in demand. We need to satisfy that demand. Tobacco smoking is by choice, therefore, we feel that adults must continue to be provided this choice, and Zimbabwe must continue to produce for those choice smokers who choose flavour-styled Zimbabwean tobacco. We think this will continue for a while.
We have an area of focus called alternate and alternatives to tobacco; and we have industrial crops, and other rotational crops that we are focusing on.
In these alternatives that we are looking into, we are saying in terms of managing the risks if you are a tobacco farmer, or any other farmer, we have now set up an industrial crops working group within the ministry, where we are focusing on cannabis and industrial hemp.
Specifically, for industrial hemp we have about 57 growing units now registered and many more. We have now put in place the seed regulations for importation of hemp. We are also looking into the research and development side of hemp, with four varieties now having been screened over the past three years that we believe can be rolled over and expanded in terms of production.
Quite a lot is already happening, and the ministry is coordinating that very closely.
Globally, cannabis and industrial hemp are probably about a US$28 billion industry as compared to the tobacco industry, which is about US$850 billion, and is predicted to become a trillion dollar industry by 2025. So, there is still a lot to get from tobacco, but there is a lot that we can get from industrial hemp, and Zimbabwe is catching up with the rest of the world. We will be increasing our footprints, so that we can increase our activity in this area.
· Dr Anxious Masuka is Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister.