By The Solutions Tower Staff.
Rapidly rising populations have enormously amplified the necessity for food, albeit the fact that the food-producing capacity and capability of many African countries is progressively repressed due to the weakening prospects of bringing new land into production as well as by the deteriorating productivity of over cultivated areas caused by natural resource degradation.
The African experience, confirmed by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) process in the first decade (2003-2013) has shown the existence of “good” policies that are not implemented, or poorly implemented or poorly formulated policies that are well implemented.
This trend is not different with the present situation in Zimbabwe.
Subsequently, the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe is facing a lot of key challenges that need to be undertaken head-on.
Zimbabwe does not have an agricultural and food security policy, and the country has failed to integrate its policy replications within a wider inclusive economic development framework. The country has resorted to the espousal of ad hoc measures such as command agriculture.
USAID 2017 describes the state of Zimbabwe’s agriculture and food security as fragile. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee estimated that 4.1 million (42%) of the rural population) would be food insecure during the period from January to March 2017.
Acute food insecurity outcomes continued among poor households in the south from June 2016 through January 2017.
This was mainly due to very low 2015-16 crop harvests, increasing economic hardships, and anticipated below average livelihood options.
Poor households in parts of the traditional maize-surplus areas in the north remain stressed because of livelihood protection gaps due to below average crop harvests as well as prevailing liquidity challenges. A combination of political and economic instability, exacerbated by poor domestic policies, contribute to the sustained underperformance of the agricultural sector.
The sector is emerging from a prolonged period of structural change in the context of shifts in the social, political and economic environments.
This occurred concurrently with key financial cataclysms, which involved prolonged epochs of hyperinflation, shadowed by the liberalisation of markets and the subsequent alterations to the use of foreign exchange in 2008.
The agricultural sector has long been key to the economic stability and growth of Zimbabwe, and it forms the basis for the direct or indirect livelihoods of almost 70% of the population.
Therefore, the growth and development of the agricultural sector supports the growth and improvement of other sectors of the economy.
Robertson (2011) argues that the growth of the agricultural sub-division remains important for Zimbabwe’s transitional economy, especially industry and services.
The sector contributes more than 30% of the formal employment, and represents the largest single source of export earnings, after mining.
Agricultural productivity is very low, and is connected to a low level of capital endowment, leading to a constrained uptake of productive farm technologies and, subsequently, to low yield and output.
The rural market economy malformed because of the economic catastrophe, as well as persistent interpositions by the government and funding agencies (Anseeuw et al 2012).
This subsequently led to the breakdown of input and output markets and competent price-setting machineries (Esterhuizen, 2010).
More challenging is the absence of an apt and definite policy and institutional framework, which has led to an ill-defined general development stratagem and imprecise institutional entities and provisions.
Deteriorating infrastructure for marketing and transportation of produce as well as overall production capacity are some of the challenges faced by the sector, and this has led to high costs or scarcity of production factors.
Critically is the limited access to working capital and complications in accessing agricultural finance “which stem from a lack of credit and financial services that are poorly adapted to the new tenurial situation, and unfavorable borrowing conditions” (Kapuya et al., 2010).
The solution to the above-mentioned challenges is to embrace agricultural transformation, not as an isolated process of the so-called ‘agricultural sector’.
Agricultural development has to be part of a broader process of structural transformation that is invariably catalysed by inter-linkages between agriculture, the rural non-farm economy, manufacturing and services.
That is, an ‘agricultural revolution’ triggers an ‘industrial revolution’.
Agricultural transformation is most often the trigger for structural transformation.
For Zimbabwe, the first point of focus has to be raising ‘labour’ and ‘land’ productivity – in that order of priority.
This is because development and transformation is about people. African leaders have to shift the mindset radically from the propensity to build ‘things’ rather than building ‘people’.
A rise in labour and land productivity in rural areas ensures that labour productivity and incomes will continue to rise together between rural and urban areas as structural transformation progresses.
In other words, the labour and factor markets continue to integrate between rural and urban, and employment continues to grow with low rates of unemployment in both rural and urban, or proximity to ‘full employment’.
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