Zimbabwe Agriculture Struggles to Meet Demand

Zimbabwean peasant farmer Munyaradzi Mudapakati holds spinach at his farm in Chinhamora, about 50 km north of Harare on Febuary 10, 2011.
Zimbabwean peasant farmer Munyaradzi Mudapakati holds spinach at his farm in Chinhamora, about 50 km north of Harare on Febuary 10, 2011.

Zimbabwe was once southern Africa's breadbasket.

But today it is a basket case, where people depend on handouts for food.

For more than 10 consecutive years since President Robert Mugabe’s government embarked on a land reform program targeting white farmers, Zimbabwe has had to import food to avert hunger as its new farmers cannot produce enough.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said the treasury had released $20 million to farmers to buy inputs - seeds, fertilizer and other farming materials.  At the same news conference, Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made said a third of the country’s planted crop for the 2012 season was a write-off, since farmers did not have irrigation systems and were too poor to buy required inputs on time.

"It is clear if you bring inputs late in the season you cannot take advantage.  Cropping is a function of time," said Made.  "The season does not wait.  I hope in what we are doing are correcting the situation so that never again are the inputs are delayed…. The second point is that when we are talking of agriculture farmers suffer the vagaries of weather. That you cannot control. The best is to assist farmers by development of irrigation."

Zimbabwe had plenty of food until 2000.  Since then it has been a different story since President Mugabe’s government launched its land reform program.  Almost all white commercial farmers were replaced by inexperienced farmers, mainly supporters of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. It is these farmers that Made wants helped in erecting irrigation systems to water their crops.

The deposed white farmers had irrigation systems, but the new farmers mostly destroyed them when they took over the farms, often by force.

"There is a move towards market-related solutions towards agriculture, bearing in mind our incapacity as a state to look fully after our people," said Finance Minister Biti.  "This is a move we are making which reflected in this program we are launching today."

It remains to be seen if these untrained farmers are able to survive on their own without being assisted by the government, as has been the case since the land reform started.

Critics have said Zimbabwe's government should have trained the farmers before allocating them land to them.  Tuesday, when asked to reveal how farmers had performed and whether Zimbabwe needed to import food in 2012, Agriculture Minister Made said exact figures are still not available, but production will not be what was expected.

"I know you might be looking for [a] specific figure.  You have to wait a little bit.  That has to be briefed to [the] cabinet first. But of the 1.7 million hectares that were planted, 500,000 hectares will be a write off," said Made.

The $20 million in aid to farmers announced Tuesday is meant to increase size of the winter crop, especially wheat.  The southern African country requires 406,000 metric tons of wheat annually to meet local demands.  Made said the funding would result in wheat production increasing to 76,000 metric tons.

The United Nations estimates that at least 1.5 million people need food aid in Zimbabwe. With the latest revelations, the number of people who need food assistance is almost certain to increase.

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Comments page of 2
by: Mike Watkins
April 11, 2012 1:17 AM
they must die of starvation with pus filled eyes. that's what they voted into power.if you wish to be responsibilities of one.we have the same ongoing in SA. farming is a profession that requires education if you do not have that then it does not matter how many tractors you buy these useless creatures.let them die like theirNorth Korean benefactors.they must learn to become part of the human race the hard way. race does not define intelligence so why must these ZANU PF morons be given credit?

by: Robert Moffett
April 10, 2012 12:48 PM
It was only a matter of time. The white African farmers of Zimbabwe were forced off their land or murdered. The farmers replacing the white farmers had no modern farming skills. Now the breadbasket of Africa will go begging for food. the same will happen in South Africa where over 3000 white African farmers have been butchered sice apartheid ended. The media is silent about the slaughtering of white Africans. I hope hungry Africans can eat the cries of the farmers they gutted.

by: Albert
April 10, 2012 12:38 PM
Those poor devils were too easily led by that %^8*^$%^
Mugabe. They should have run him off instead of Whitey!
Not all of the blacks wanted to take the land away, they had jobs and an income with the former owners, perhaps not large incomes, but a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush.

by: Mac
April 10, 2012 12:38 PM

by: bob
April 10, 2012 12:14 PM
And this is a suprise? lmfao.

by: Peter the Farmer
April 10, 2012 11:50 AM
The difference between the 2 tyrant is that Libya has Oil, Rhodesia doesnt!! The first one has been removed and disposed of, the second one is on it's way to hell! Next is going to be the UN asking for donations for Zimbabwe.... and the money will end up in the pockets of the Zanu supporters....the populace will starve.......

by: Peter the Farmer
April 10, 2012 11:49 AM
First Gaddafi, now Mugabe! The later followed in the steps of the first with disastrous efficiency. Both instigated a "Green Revolution" both kicked out the "White Farmers" Both Failed in their aim!! Both countries where able to feed their people and export some!

by: Michael
April 10, 2012 11:48 AM
This is a problem completely of Zimbabwe's making and they deserve every bit of it. They should receive no foreign aid until Mugabe is gone and they have competent leadership who will not squander the aid on themselves.

by: Zvopo
April 10, 2012 11:36 AM
Zimbabwe was never a bread and basket of Africa! This is a myth that has been perpetuated for decades. Zimbabwe grew tobacco and exported it to EU, USA and Asian and for that it was labeled the bread and basket of Africa. Ask African nations if they received and food from Zimbabwe and they have a totally different story from this.

by: Jack Meoff
April 10, 2012 11:31 AM
Mugabe is a complete moron. I know that this will sound cruel to some of you, but I think that his imminent death will be a good thing for Zimbabwe.

And, when it comes to Mugabe, my name says it all!
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