‘Second Republic has confidence in the youth’ Dr John Basera

Elita Chikwati Features Editor

The celebration of the National Youth Day at Mushagashe Vocational Training Centre last week cast attention on the contribution being done by youths to the development of the country.

In fact, the Second Republic has empowered youths to be in leadership positions, with some leading in the crafting of strategies and blueprints for economic development.

One such youth is Local Government and Public Works Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera, who participated in the development of strategies and blueprints that saw the agriculture sector registering a huge success during the past few years.

According to Dr Basera, involvement of youths and new ideas is important in that it presents the young ones with the opportunity to learn from the elders, while they also implement new technologies and ideas.

“Success has always been about team work,” he said in an interview.

“We worked as a team in the Ministry of Lands and together we crafted and implemented several game-changing strategies and blueprints which saw the agricultural sector taking centre stage in the journey towards the attainment of Vision 2030 under the astute leadership of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Dr ED Mnangagwa.”

Dr Basera is an award winning leader with a roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic and a track record in surmounting challenging national assignments.

He is analytical, data-driven agribusiness and development practitioner leveraging over 14 years experience driving cohesive, strategic operations across a diverse range of sectors.

Dr Basera was presented with the Presidential Performance Excellence Award for exceeding set ministerial targets, two years in a row as he led the agricultural transformation in Zimbabwe from 2020 to 2023.

He has won several other awards and accolades including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Corporate Directors Zimbabwe (ICDZ) and topped the influential 40 under 40 list in Zimbabwe for several years since 2020.

Early life

Born 1986 in Burma Valley, 40km south east of Mutare on a banana farm, Dr Basera grew up farming. At the age of seven, he was already doing shunting with a small MF35 tractor on his father’s farm.

He holds a PhD in Agribusiness Development, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Degree in Agriculture.

“I would like to profusely thank His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde Dr E.D Mnangagwa for entrusting a 33-year-old (in 2020) to lead the transformation of the agricultural sector,” he said.

“This is testament to the fact that the Second Republic has confidence in the youth. Indeed, the all-inclusive journey towards Vision 2030 is leaving no place and no demography behind.

“The President’s wise counsel and visionary leadership has brought the recent successes in the agricultural sector and all the other sectors.”

Dr Basera was invited to join the public service in November, 2019 when he was managing director for CBZ Agro-Yield.

“I did not think twice as I also felt it was time to serve,” he said. “I had reached the pinnacle of my professional career at a young age, being managing director for one of the strategic business units at 32 years at CBZ Holdings and the opportunity to serve the nation excited me.

“Indeed, we had an incredible ride at Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development during the period 2020 to 2023,” he said.

Dr Basera led a team which crafted and implemented several game-changing strategies and blueprints.

Agricultural Economy Transformation:

The team crafted and implemented the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy (2020 -2024) which catapulted Zimbabwe’s Agriculture industry from US$5.2billion sector prior to 2020 to US$9.9billion by September 2023, a feat which had been envisaged for 2026.

Food Security and Nutrition

The ZimAgric team rolled out the Agriculture and Livestock Recovery and Growth Plans which lifted Zimbabwe from being a net food importer by end of 2020 to being a net food exporter by 2022, grew maize production by 200 percent from below 907,000tonnes in 2019 to a record 2.7 million tonnes by end of 2022, against a national annual requirement of 2.2million tonnes; bumped wheat production from 92 000 tonnes in 2019 to 400 000 tonnes in 2023 against an annual national requirement of 360 000 tonnes.

The team also grew the livestock sector from a national herd of 5 million prior to 2020 to 5.5 million in 2023; raw milk production grew from 75 million litres in 2019 to over 100 million litres by December 2023, against national annual requirement of 120 million litres leading to reduced milk and milk product imports from 9 million kilogrammes in 2019 to less than 4 million kilogrammes in 2023.

Rural Development and Agro-Industrialisation

In the period 2020-2023, the Ministry designed the Rural Development 8.0 strategy, incorporating programmes earmarked for crop, fisheries and livestock production which improved agricultural productivity and standard of living in rural areas.

The Ministry enhanced mobility and tooling of extension officers which led to an increase in morale among front-line employees and extension-officer-to-farmer contact rate.

Agricultural Trade and Agribusiness Development

The Ministry crafted and adopted the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation and Horticulture Recovery and Growth Strategies which boosted tobacco production and exports from 212 million kilogrammes in 2019 to 297 million kilogrammes in 2023; and horticulture export value grew from US$10 million in 2016 to over US$70 million in 2023; cotton lint exports grew from US$15 million prior to 2019 to over US$80 million by end of 2023; Led the successful launch of the Zimbabwe Mercantile Exchange (ZMX),an agricultural commodities exchange platform which helped establish a market-driven price discovery mechanism and significantly curtailed reliance on the fiscus for funding of agricultural production and marketing.

Climate-smart Agriculture

The Ministry put together and implemented interventions and strategies such as Conservation Agriculture(Pfumvudza/Intwasa), Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development, Agro-ecological Tailoring, and Water Harvesting and Dam Construction, Programmes to help climate-proof Agriculture, a sector which is vulnerable to climate change effects and variabilities.

The massive, countrywide adoption of the principles of Conservation Agriculture in Zimbabwe from 2020 to 2023 resulted in climate proofing of the food production sub-sector and growth in maize productivity by over 180 percent from 0.4 tonnes per hectare prior to 2020 to 1.4 tonnes per hectare by 2022.

The Conservation Agriculture concept was discussed at the Feed Africa Summit in Dakar, Senegal in January 2023 and is earmarked for implementation across Africa as the panacea to climate-proof smallholder food production.

Agricultural Financing and Value-Chain Development

The ZimAgric Team spearheaded the creation of AFC Agricultural Finance Corporation Holdings (AFC) which became one of the major agricultural financial institutions in the first year of operation, with special focus on development financing using institutional funds.

Structured performance guarantees which formed the basis for banks to on-lend to farmers without pre-requisite collateral, which increased bank participation in agricultural financing and reduced non-performing loans significantly.

Agricultural Technology, Innovation and Modernisation

The team launched the AIMS platform which encompasses the Zimbabwe Online Agricultural College, e-Agriculture, e-Cadastre, AgriTips365, e-Agriculture Handbook and the Agriculture Open Data Kit, which is a tool to collect information by 7000 extension officers on Livestock Information Management System, Crop Information Management System, Rural WASH Information Management System, among other ICT innovations.

The ministry consummated mechanisation facilities worth over US$200 million wherein Government is importing over 4 400 tractors led to enhanced production efficiencies, productivity, profitability and data-driven policy formulation and agricultural information dissemination.

Inclusivity

A quota system which reserved land and flagship programmes for special groups such as youths and women-leaving no one and no demography behind, was initiated and implemented at the advent of the Second Republic.

This has led to increased participation by women and youths in agriculture, who constitute 52 percent and 62 percent of the population, respectively.

The nation is indeed harnessing the women and youth demographics into a demographic dividend for the benefit of the economy. It is a fact that there’s no economy which will grow without 62 percent of its population participating, hence the thrust by the Second Republic to crowd in youths in the mainstream sectors of the economy is in itself a vision 2030 Accelerator. After working in the agriculture ministry for three years, Dr Basera was then entrusted with yet another strategic assignment as head of the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works. Since October, 2023, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works has laid the fundamentals of upscaling service delivery by Local Authorities.

“The Ministry has put together the Call2Action: No Compromise to Service Delivery Blueprint for Local Authorities to establish, track and up-scale service delivery in Zimbabwe to achieve upper middle class economy status in line with Vision 2030,” he said.

“The blueprint launched by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Dr ED Mnangagwa has several touch points which include among others:

  • All local authorities to have operative master plans by the 30th of June 2024 to enhance planned land and housing delivery and minimise haphazard, irregular and illegal developments and settlements.
  • All 92 local authorities were directed to have a functional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems by June 2024. This enhances revenue collection, and optimise resource management and in the same line upscaling service delivery
  • All 92 local authorities to have updated valuation rolls for rating purposes by June 2024.

“The development of minimum service delivery standards is underway to set the minimum service expectations from all 32 urban and 60 rural local authorities.

“Each local authority will develop Standard Operating Procedures and systems based on the minimum service delivery standards and in compliance with the laws.”

The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is rolling out the LADS Enterprise Resource Planning system (Local Authorities Digital Systems) in all of Zimbabwe’s 92 local authorities which will boost revenue collection and efficient resources management.

It has also consummated the Master Plan Development programme to design and develop plans for Economic Zones and new towns and cities.

Dr Basera is also an entrepreneur with interests in farming, energy, agribusiness, retailing and transport sectors, employing over 250 people.  Since the 2017/18 agricultural season, he has been one of the top maize growers in the country.

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