No World Bank aid for new farmers

zim_farm_takeover2HARARE The World Bank is mobilising resources to fund the distribution of maize seed to 300 000 Zimbabwean smallholder farmers in food-insecure regions but says the project will not benefit growers or so-called new farmers in newly-resettled areas where land rights are still being disputed. (Pictured: Children play innocently at a farm

It is envisaged that the project would be implemented by a private sector entity called GRM International and would pay for the purchase and distribution costs for approximately 2 750 tonnes of improved maize seed to be directly delivered to smallholder households classified as food insecure.

The seed would be purchased through tender and bidders would have to be eligible domestic and regional seed producers who own certified seed of varieties approved for sale in Zimbabwe. The seed distribution is targeted at rural farm households based in Zimbabwes communal areas who were unable to produce enough grain during the 2008/09 summer cropping season to meet their family consumption requirements.

Higher priority will be provided to female headed households, and those with high dependency ratios caused by HIV/AIDS or similar health problems, the bank said in the project document. GRM International would oversee a network of about 20 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with experience in working with local communities and able to identify the neediest farm households who can make good use of the seed inputs provided.

Each designated household would receive 10 kg of certified maize seed, and approximately 275 000 farm households will be assisted. None of the seed will be distributed in Zimbabwes newly resettled areas where land rights may still be contested, the bank said.

Several white farmers are contesting the legality of Zimbabwes controversial land reform programme after their farms were illegally occupied by President Robert Mugabe. Some of the white farmers have won landmark judgements against the Zimbabwean government at regional and international tribunals although Harare has refused to recognise the rulings.

It is proposed that the project would be undertaken within the framework of the British government-funded Protracted Relief Programme (PRP), which is the largest source of agriculture assistance and input distribution for smallholders in Zimbabwe. Under GRM management and working with the NGO partners, the PRP has provided poorer, small-scale farmers with seed and fertilizer for the past four years.

The successful implementation of these efforts has encouraged participation in the PRP from the governments of Australia, Netherlands, and the European Commission. It is also planned that the project would fund the distribution of about 250 tonnes of hybrid maize seed through rural retail shops in exchange for vouchers.

The voucher system is a pilot effort to work with Zimbabwes national seed industry to rebuild its retail distribution systems. Each farmer will receive a voucher redeemable for 10 kg of certified maize seed at a designated retail shop. Approximately 25 000 households are expected to gain access to seed through these vouchers, said the World Bank.

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