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Zimbabwe's Communal Farmers Get World Bank Aid

The World Bank has announced a grant to help small-scale Zimbabwean farmers to increase their harvests.

The $7 million Zimbabwe Emergency Agricultural Input Project grant is aimed at reducing Zimbabwe's dependence on food aid and costly food imports. The money was provided by the Australian Agency for International Development. World bank senior agricultural Economist David Rohrbach gives details. "The grant is covering the cost of 3,000 tonnes of a mixture of hybrid maize seed and open pollinated varieties which are targeted to 300,000 communal framers on the country. These will be farmers generally that have difficulty producing enough grain to meet their consumption requirements in the previous year," he said.

Rohrbach added that in addition to the ten kilograms of seed maize each of the households would receive, it is expected that other donors will provide at least 50 kilograms of fertilizer per family. He said the distribution to the farmers should be completed by mid-November.

He said the project was formulated to support the Zimbabwean government's call to help 800,000 vulnerable farmers.

A company called GRM International will implement the project and most of the seed will be delivered directly to farmers by non-governmental organizations. Rohrbach explained that though government is not directly involved in the program's implementation, it has a big role to play. "The direct implementation is done by GRM and the NGOs that were contracted to do this but they work very closely with agricultural extension officers at the ground level district with the district administration at the ground level. I was out on Tuesday meeting with the district administrator for Murewa they are well informed of the program and feel that they are participant in the process," he said.

The shortage of agricultural inputs during Zimbabwe's economic meltdown, as well as unseasonal dry spells, made the country - once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa - dependent on food aid. Critics of President Robert Mugabe blame the slump in food production on his government's land reform program launched in 2000, which ousted white farmers from their farms for the resettlement of landless blacks.