This week we deal with the agricultural sector as the key driver of economic revival, food security and job creation.
Agriculture remains one of the saddest stories in Zimbabweâ€™s history. This is a sector that not only fed the entire nation but even exported huge volumes at independence. Sadly it is now just a shadow of its glorious past.
We now import 70% of our food needs from South Africa and the Zambians are now feeding us with their grain. The contribution of agriculture to our GDP has fallen from about 30% in 1980 to a mere 12% of a declining GDP. This of course is mainly due to the preposterous and indefensible ZANU (PF) policies which have devastated every sector of our economy and created wide spread poverty.
PDP views agriculture revival as a critical economic sector which must help us achieve food security as a matter of national security, alleviate poverty, create jobs and sustainable incomes and also lead to the revival of our agro processing industry so that we can reduce food imports and subsequently our trade deficit.
How do we intend to do that?
Zimbabwe has about fifteen million hectares of arable agricultural land, of which an estimated four million hectares were bought by black farmers on a willing buyer willing seller basis before the disastrous fast track land resettlement project of 2000. This means that the government now controls close to eleven million hectares.
This eleven million hectares of arable land is effectively a dead and unproductive asset. Yes, a dead asset, because that land has no commercial value whatsoever due to tenure insecurity. In addition, the neglect of agricultural infrastructure maintenance since 2000 has resulted in vast pieces of potentially productive land being underutilised while the infrastructure has either dilapidated or has been stolen.
We can change all this and in our economic policy, we identify the first item on the agenda as the land audit and the establishment of a non-partisan independent land commission. The commission must regularise ownership in the sector, rationalise its operations and advise government on new policies which will result an increase in productivity and investment. In fact a lot of work has already been done by experts and all we need is the political will to do the right things.
As PDP we believe that the land reform need not be reversed but must be rationalised. We will also promote a new agriculture model of large scale industrial farming where experienced large scale farmers partner with small scale farmers around industrial hubs which add value to agricultural produce.
The idea of separate development of an elitist white commercial farming sector as in the past is no longer viable nor is it desirable. An inclusive developmental agenda is therefore critical if we are to eradicate poverty, achieve food security, increase productivity and create decent jobs in the sector.
Also critical is the issue of food security. Any country that fails to feed its citizens and minimise poverty is a failure. Zimbabwe despite having all the necessary agricultural resources, the requisite skills and knowledge has failed to do just that.
We believe that hunger in our country is not inevitable and malnutrition is not a consequence of food scarcity, but a result of the way our economy is organized and of the political choices we have made to addressâ€”or ignoreâ€”the causes of hunger and poverty.
The idea of poverty alleviation and achieving food security must therefore be an all-encompassing approach to improve the welfare and standard of living for all our people. As PDP we believe that, no Zimbabwean anywhere within the country should face hunger. Hunger and poverty are not inevitable but are mere consequences of bad leadership, bad policy and bad planning.
However, we can only achieve the above by attracting the necessary investment in the agriculture sector.
Before the fast track land resettlement project in 2000, the financial services sector had around $2 billion invested in the agricultural sector, compared to a mere $100 million in 2010. As long as our banks do not feel secure investing in this sector, we will continue to see a decline in new investments.
As PDP we believe that the sacrosanct cornerstone upon which any successful economy can be built is the legal protection of private property ownership. This has been disregarded by this government in the agricultural sector to our extreme prejudice.
The rule of law is an economic principle that is non-negotiable if we are to recover. We must create bankable land ownership instruments in collaboration with the local banks to release funding into this sector.
In order to move forward, there is of course also the issue of compensation of those commercial farmers whose properties were taken by the government without compensation. This issue cannot be avoided forever and at some stage we will have to reach agreement with the victims.
Our new constitution accepts the liability and the ZANU (PF) led government has in principle accepted its responsibility to compensate land owners, subject to an agreement with the farmers on a compensation framework, and the securing the required resources. The target is to complete this exercise by 2020 but as we all know there are no guarantees that this will be done as long as ZANU (PF) remains in charge.
Only once we have removed the conflict on land and restored secure land tenure can we expect the financial services sector to look seriously at agriculture investment as it did in the past.
Key issues under our agriculture revival strategy will include infrastructure rehabilitation and development, the re-establishment of agriculture support and research services, restructuring of agriculture and related state enterprises, new export markets development, value add products, enabling policies especially the pricing and marketing of produce, skills transfer and development and the availability of appropriate seasonal and long term finance.
Also critical will be how we manage climate change. This is such an important issue which has been typically neglected by ZANU (PF). Zimbabwe faces a challenging future due to climate change impact and this will change how we achieve food security and prevent poverty and hunger. PDP is in the process of developing a comprehensive climate change policy in response. The issue of climate change will be covered under this column in the future as a key economic enabler.
As PDP we acknowledge that there is no shortage of new creative ideas on how to revive agriculture. Much work has already been done by academics and experts on the subject. We believe that this sector can indeed be quickly revived and trigger off the revival of the entire economy, but only when with a new government which takes its responsibilities seriously.
We intend to do just that!
By Vince Musewe PDP Secretary for Finance and Economic Affairs. Contact details:[email protected] or +263776917440Post published in: Economy