By Shingirai Vambe
Harare – Last week, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations (UN), and the Government of Zimbabwe convened at a local hotel in Harare to explore and plan investments in various sectors of agriculture in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean agricultural sector is diverse, consisting of communal, smallholder, large-scale, and estate agriculture. These sectors employ different farming methods and crops based on climatic conditions and geographical locations.
The conference, themed “Accelerating Investment in Agro-Food Systems in Zimbabwe,” brought together senior government officials, resident ministers, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Civic Society Organizations (CSOs), and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to discuss where and how to invest in Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector.
The identified areas that require investment are mechanization, irrigation, fertilizers, and energy. However, there was a notable absence of livestock and poultry, despite a request made during the conference to include an inclusive agricultural approach.
Minister Anxious Masuka emphasized the need to reflect on the concept, context, and philosophy of development, particularly rural development, in Zimbabwe. He highlighted the importance of understanding each province’s composition and identifying opportunities for development across sectors. Masuka stated the significance of identifying factors that enable development and the various sub-sectors’ co-factors and multipliers.
Clemence Taderera Mwenje, the Chief Director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development, urged delegates to adopt innovative methods for gathering quality data to minimize risk and facilitate the exploitation of investment opportunities. He emphasised the need for the use of geo-referenced data sets. Taderera also stressed the importance of improving the policy environment, increasing access to foreign currency, and providing medium and long-term financial facilities to bridge gaps in mechanisation and irrigation infrastructure.
Taderera further emphasised the importance of maintaining momentum, building and sustaining partnerships for growth.
During the conference, farmers expressed the need for reliable markets. Various means of accessing markets were discussed, along with the importance of branding, quality, and packaging.
Dr. Patrice Talla Takoukam, the FAO sub-regional coordinator for southern Africa and representative for Zimbabwe, highlighted the significance of the event in assessing progress made so far and determining the necessary steps to achieve their goals. Takoukam emphasised the importance of leveraging different capabilities to maximize results and impact.
He also commended Zimbabwe’s Minister of Lands for presenting investment opportunities in Zimbabwe’s agri-food systems at the Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum held in Rome last year. Takoukam stated that the presentation received positive feedback from delegates representing 20 countries and potential public and private investors.
Takoukam added that FAO is proud to be the technical partner of choice in Zimbabwe’s devolution process, working closely with the Ministry of Lands and collaborating with Ministers of State for provincial Affairs. Through the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, FAO facilitated the development of spatially disaggregated agriculture investment plans for the provinces, known as Provincial Agriculture Plans. These plans are essential documents for the country’s devolution agenda.
Edward Kallon, the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Zimbabwe, emphasised the importance of promoting investment in Zimbabwe’s agriculture and food systems to achieve national and global goals of poverty reduction and ending hunger. Kallon stressed that the challenges we face today, such as food security, nutrition, health, and migration, require coordinated efforts at national, regional, and global levels. He highlighted the interconnectedness of the globalised world and the need to address these challenges from a contextualised perspective.
The Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) urged farmers to insure their crops and livestock while banks, AFC and CBZ shared on the modalities on accessing funds to agricultural projects. Challenge was cited on the repayment of loans in the event that one realizes a loss, delays and money paid by the Government of Zimbabwe living farmers in huge loses.
It was however noted that most farmers don’t insure their crops and livestock; some because of the fast changing rates and inflation in both local and foreign currency.