New farmers: where did the money go?

In 30 seconds, Haiti lost 60 percent of its GDP (gross domestic product), and now requires an estimated

US$3 billion dollars to rebuild its economy over the next 10 years due to a natural disaster.

Zimbabwe spent close to US$3 billion funding private property looters over the past 10 years and destroyed 80 percent of the nations GDP due to this man-made disaster.

This season, Zimbabwe is likely to produce a paltry 500 000 tonnes of maize and needs to import at least 1.8 million tonnes, which shall be donated by the people whose skin colour resembles those Zanu (PF) expelled from the?land and arrested for farming in Zimbabwe. Food handouts emblazoned Gift of the EU, coming from the kith and kin of people Zanu (PF) now refers to as offsprings of colonial settlers.

Why does Zanu (PF) not put its money where its mouth is and demand that only food grown by black farmers from other countries is acceptable as aid for starving Zimbabweans?

Only in Zimbabwe are farmers arrested and jailed for farming and their farms taken away to be given to fitness?trainers, television announcers, DJs and absentee diplomats.

Haiti is now a witness to the humanity and goodwill from the relatives of?the very people it once expelled from this tiny island in 1804, albeit they were slave masters.

Land must go to people with a passion for farming and not to persons with an insatiable penchant for handouts and public funds. Farming is a businessan art and a sciencewhich requires capital, experience, an entrepreneurial spirit cast in stone, and both inspiration and perspiration.

Where is the money?

The Zanu (PF) beneficiaries of farms acquired under the fast track land exercise, whom the government refers to as new farmers, have received a whopping US$2.5 billion largesse since year 2000. What happened to all these?public funds?

As of January 1 2008, the official exchange rate was 1US$ = ZW$30,000, which means that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) disbursed US$2 073 333 333. ?Assuming that the disbursement was equitable, each of the 25 477 new?farmers should have received an average of US$ 81 380 dollars where is the money?

Whilst refuting the need for a land audit, Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made said it is still early days for a land audit in Zimbabwe and too early to judge new farmers production capabilities because they have been operating under harsh conditions characterised by illegal economic sanctions imposed by the West.

Farming is a difficult business, which operates at the best of times under the harshest of climatic conditions, financial challenges and political meddling. Managing droughts, floods, wind, locusts, labor, and low producer prices is just another day at the office. Overcoming these challenges is universal amongst farmers and is what separates the men from the boys.

The parliamentary portfolio committee on lands during the first session of the sixth parliament on November 2, ?2005, revealed the depressing state of agriculture in Zimbabwe.

The RBZ? governor, Gideon Gono presented the committee with a detailed synopsis of?Zanu (PF)s financial handouts to new farmers as follows:

In 2000 $ 1 6 billion, 2001 -$ 4 6 billion, 2002 $8 5 billion, 2003 $?80 billion, 2004 $25 billion under the ASPEF, at 5% interest rate.

National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) officials revealed that, between January and September in 2005 alone, it supplied the agricultural sector with 19.4 million litres of fuel. Who were the beneficiaries?

Disappointing output

The Ministry of Agriculture officials informed the committee that the introduction of the agricultural inputs scheme at the onset of the land reform programme was not clearly explained to new farmers. Farmers are?still not clear whether the scheme is a loan scheme or a free handout scheme and consequently this has created a dependency syndrome in farmers.

The Zimbabwean fast track land reform exercise is the most publicly assisted sector of the economy. Its output does not match the extent of support new?farmers receive, as the countrys food security situation is worsening.

The ASPEF productivity enhancement facility requires the farmers to support their loan applications with evidence of actual past performance and commitment to reinvesting their own incomes into farming programs that enhance food security.

Against its own stringent lending conditions, the?RBZ looked the other way and shoved wads of cash down the throats of unqualified Zanu (PF) devotees, who are now hungry for more.

In 1912, the Land Bank was formed to encourage and support new settler farmers as successful farmers. The Land Bank, later transformed into the Agriculture Finance Corporation (AFC) in 1971, which later became Agribank and which is almost insolvent due to the non-repayment of loans advanced to politically connected non-farmers.

R300 million

South Africa, which made the R300 million donation, entrusted the aid operation to the regional bloc, Southern African Development Community?(SADC), which established the Zimbabwe Humanitarian and Development Assistance Framework (ZHDAF) to undertake the distribution of farm inputs. What happened to these funds?

The RBZ is tittering on the verge of bankruptcy due to the non-payment of loans to Zanu (PF) land beneficiaries who have failed to farm. The governor, ?Gono, recently admitted that, The assets that the bank has, if any, are fewer than its liabilities and therefore it is technically insolvent and is likely to collapse.

As at 31 August 2007, the RBZ had dolled out a cumulative $3.9 trillion under the Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility (ASPEF) to?21 940 new farmers. Statistics made available by the central bank show a cumulative amount of $62,2 trillion had been disbursed under ASPEF to 25 477?applications as at January 4 2008.

The seizure of farms taken under the fast track land acquisition programmed occurred during the peak season with the cropsmaize, tobacco, citrusready for harvest and livestockchicken and cattleon the ground.

Evicted farmers were prohibited from removing equipment, livestock and crops. What happened?to all this produce and equipment such as tractors, irrigation systems? Who took?what?

What is an offer letter? Is it constitutional? Is it legal to offer state land only to people who belong to one political party?

Letting nation down

In September 2007, speaking at the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) national congress in Masvingo, then Minister of Agriculture, Rugare Gumbo said the?newly resettled black farmers had let the nation down after they failed to maintain production on former white-owned farms.

Gumbo said: I am disappointed that our new farmers have proved to be failures since the start of the land reform programme in 2000. In spite of all the support, government has been pouring into the agricultural sector, productivity and?under-utilisation of land remain issues of concern.

I am painfully aware of the widespread theft of stock, farm produce, irrigation equipment and the general vandalism of infrastructure by our new farmers,

And Gono said, The primary motivation out of which ASPEF was born, was to hold our farmers financial hands to cross over the grey era of apprehensions and general inertia by the banks to lend into agriculture during the emotive stages of the land reform programme.

Gono further reiterated that, after having sustained new farmers for years, through access to concessional finance, under the ASPEF, new farmers should be weaned off.

Even during a drought year, Zimbabwe should never suffer from a food deficit if water from existing dams is harnessed and used for targeted production of food crops.

There were 25 dams built by government since independence that remain lying idle. These dams have a combined potential to irrigate?48 000 hectares.

Ministry of Agriculture officials disclosed that Treasury had indicated that the fiscus alone did not have the capacity to bankroll the programme to the?tune of Z$14,992 trillion dollars due to other pressing national priorities.

Hence as late as September, Treasury had still not committed itself to funding the programme. However, RBZ released Z$7 trillion dollars under ASPEF.

Other pressing national priorities that year included the procurement of fighter jets from China. Who is to blame for the failure of new farmers and for the collapse of Zimbabwes agriculture? How can mere land occupiers who earn their living from political patronage, consume agricultural handouts, and produce no crops, be called farmers?

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