Who will feed the nation?

The first rains have already arrived. But it appears not much is happening by way of preparations to feed ourselves. Despite the fact that we’ve been warned that by the end of this year more than 2 million people will need food aid, there is still no government strategy to deal with the situation.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

We must surely have seen this coming. Last season, although erratic rains were experienced in some parts of the country, the situation was made much worse by the critical shortage of inputs. Even worse was the fact that a significant amount of prime land in areas where rains were generally adequate was not put to use by beneficiaries of the fast track land “reform” programme.

As we speak, hundreds of households in such provinces like Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North are surviving on one meal a day. These are the regions most hard-hit by poor harvests. Food prices have shot up due to the prevailing scarcity.

It is vital that farmers, both communal and resettled, get assistance now – at the beginning of the season and not half-way through it. Instead of planning at the last minute, we need to have a long-term plan.

Because of the policies implemented through 30 years of Zanu (PF) rule, it has become government’s responsibility to ensure that the nation is fed. A dependency syndrome has been created through the curtailing of commercial agricultural activity and the establishment of a complex and overarching patronage system.

We urge the Minister of Agriculture and his team to consult widely and come up with a long-term development plan for agriculture. A country that cannot feed its people cannot speak of sovereignty.

It is no longer enough for the government to talk about these things. The people demand action. As world leaders met in New York recently to discuss the Millennium Development Goals – key among which is the elimination of hunger – it was distressing to see that Zimbabwe had nothing to offer.

Once again President Robert Mugabe’s performance on this global stage was cringe-worthy. He had nothing new to say except to repeat his predictable insults at the British and American governments. To make matters even worse he was accompanied by his wife, children and numerous expensive hangers-on – all at the expense of the over-burdened Zimbabwean tax-payer.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga
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