Agriculture – Made gets it wrong again

Minister of Agriculture, Joseph Made, is once more accused of misleading Zimbabweans about the country's food crisis.
HARARE - Ambuya Emily Gondo, a villager from the Mhondoro rural communal area of Zimbabwe's Mashonaland West province, tells IWPR with tears in her eyes that h

er family is likely to starve if she does not receive government and other humanitarian assistance in the next month or two.
She is currently caring for six orphaned grandchildren, the youngest of whom is only two-years-old.
Zimbabwe’s rains, which fall in the summer from November to April, were good this time. But, despite that, 70-year-old Ambuya (the affectionate Shona name for an elderly woman) Gondo will harvest very little. Like all rural Zimbabweans at a time of their country’s deepest economic crisis, she had neither an adequate supply of maize seed nor fertiliser to maximise the yield on her small patch of land.
Her moist eyes wander around and look at her grandchildren and her nutrient-deficient maize.
“I thank God that at least I will be able to harvest a reasonable amount of sweet potatoes and groundnuts,” she said. “But as for maize, I am not going to get enough to last me a long time. I didn’t get fertiliser and even if it had been available I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. It is so expensive now.”
Ambuya Gondo is just one of more than four million Zimbabweans, in a population of 12 million, who United Nations agencies say will be in need of food aid until the next harvest in 2007.
According to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture, Zimbabwe is expected to produce between 700,000 and 900,000 metric tonnes of maize in the current harvest season. But the country needs at least 1,800,000 tonnes per year to feed its people and animal stocks at minimal levels.
Many put the blame for the country’s low maize output this year squarely on the shoulders of Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, who has since his appointment in 2000 gradually destroyed the country’s farm sector.
A senior Zanu (PF) official and cabinet minister, who asked not to be named, told IWPR that Made has totally destroyed the country’s agricultural sector and should therefore be sacked. He said he failed to understand why President Robert Mugabe continued to keep a non-performer like Made when he was always preaching that he would get rid of failures.
The minister said most of his colleagues expected Mugabe to have fired Made by now, especially after the electoral congress of the ruling party last December, where Made was lambasted by ordinary party members for failing to provide adequate supplies of seed and fertiliser.
“Made has failed,” said the minister. “I know we have all failed the nation, one way or the other, but we also have amongst us ministers whom we agree should not be part of the cabinet.”
To general disbelief, Made has predicted that Zimbabwe will harvest in the next few weeks all the maize necessary to feed the country for a year. Last year, he misled the country and Mugabe when he denied reports that half the population needed food. He went further and alleged that reports of hunger in the country were a US plot to destabilise Zimbabwe and achieve regime change. Mugabe responded to Made’s hopelessly exaggerated food production statistics by rejecting international food aid and telling donors, “We are not hungry. Why foist this food on us? We don’t want to be choked. We have enough.”
Zimbabwe, nevertheless, had to buy more than 800,000 tonnes of maize from South Africa over the past year. Despite these imports, shortages of essential foods continued and the country’s hospitals are full of children with starvation-related diseases such as kwashiorkor. FEWSNET says the availability of maize meal for the poor remains precarious.
In 2004, Made said Zimbabwe had more than enough food to feed the population and even had surpluses. When international and local experts said the country had produced between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes of maize in a season of particularly low rainfall, he said more than 2,400,000 tonnes had been harvested.
He was quoted then in the state-run daily Herald newspaper as saying, “You see, God has been smiling on us and we are lucky that in the northern parts there were good rains in the last few days and crops are doing well.” During that year Zimbabwe had to import grain to feed nearly five million people.
Zimbabweans vividly remember Made flying over the country and predicting a bumper harvest in a year marked by one of the lowest maize outputs ever. He was co-opted into Mugabe’s government in 2000 as a technocrat, despite having been a failure at running the state’s Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, ARDA.
The cat-and-mouse game played by Mugabe and Made with the crisis over food production and aid has led an increasing number of experts to question whether it benefits ordinary Zimbabweans in the long run for the government to be bailed out with supplies of grain from abroad.
“Such generosity is welcome, but its subtext raises wrenching ethical issues,” said veteran American foreign correspondent Michael Wines, currently the southern Africa correspondent of the New York Times. “The world’s aid to Zimbabwe is part of a devil’s bargain, critics say, ‘save the poor from hunger and exposure’, but at the price of aiding the very rulers who are making them hungry and exposed in the first place.” – IWPR

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