“I am smiling, sometimes where you are the Minister of Finance and there is a good rain season, you ought to smile because then it means there will be higher levels of production and productivity in the agricultural sector. There will be less to import, that is what it really means for us. We are going to release the inputs on time to support our farmers for agriculture programmes.”(sic)
These words, said by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube at the weekend are naturally set to become sweet music for progressive Zimbabweans in the coming few months for a reason.
This is because the country’s charge towards economic development and improved food security is set to take another progressive step following revelations last week by the 25th Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF 25) that the SADC region will receive normal-to-above normal rainfall in the 2021-2022 cropping season.
Politics aside, this is the fillip that the country has been yearning for in order to cull the devastating effects of the Western-imposed illegal economic sanctions which have been haunting the country for the past two decades.
The COVID-19 pandemic that has slowed economic growths and development across the globe has not helped matters either.
As such, we have yet another reason to smile as a country.
After a resoundingly successful cropping season last year, where the country managed to notch a staggering 2,8 million metric tonnes of maize, courtesy of timely planning by the Government through such programmes like Pfumvudza/Intwasa, the Presidential Input Scheme, National Strengthening Crop Productivity Scheme (Command Agriculture), Irrigation, Livestock Growth Plan as well as the Farm Mechanisation Programme.
The 2,8 million metric tonnes is against a national demand of 1,8 million tonnes and the latest update by SARCOF will certainly catapult the country towards self-sufficiency.
Nearly 15 000 commercial farmers are under the Command Agriculture Programme, while 2,8 million households receive support through the Presidential Input Support Scheme.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development says the country has saved US$300 million from suspension of grain imports due to the bumper harvest achieved in the 2020-21 farming season.
SARCOF says the rains are expected from next month.
“The expected good rainfall over much of the region will further boost agricultural production – the mainstay of most economies in the region — hydropower generation and filling of major water reservoirs following similar rainfall conditions experienced in the previous season,” reads in part a report by sadc.net.
“According to the latest outlook produced by regional climate experts, ‘normal to above-normal’ rainfall is expected across most of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) between October 2021 and March 2022.The consensus forecast was produced by the 25th Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF 25) that met virtually on 30-31 August.The SARCOF forecast is divided into two parts, covering October-November-December 2021 and January-February-March 2022.”
The report goes on: “The forecast shows that most of the SADC region will receive high rainfall, termed ‘normal to above-normal’ between October and December.
Above-normal rainfall is defined as being within the wettest third of historically recorded rainfall amounts, while ‘below-normal’ is within the driest third of rainfall amounts and ‘normal’ is rainfall within the middle third
The bulk of the Democratic Republic of (the) Congo and some small parts of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia are, however, expected to receive normal to below normal rainfall in the first-half.
The second-half of the agricultural season, which covers the period January to March 2022, is expected to receive normal to above-normal rainfall except for the south-western coastal region of Angola and western coastal regions of both Namibia and South Africa.”
It has been a rollercoaster for the Second Republic in the agriculture sector as it has been in other sectors.
According to a Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report 2020-21 Season released by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement in May this year, the country surpassed targets in all crops that were planted in the 2020-21 season.
“The estimated maize production stands at 2 717 171 MT which is 199 percent of the 907 628 MT produced in the 2019/2020 season,” reads the report.
“Traditional grains production for the 2020/2021 season is estimated at 347 968 MT which is 128 percent more compared to 152 515 MT in 2019/2020.
Sorghum production is expected to be 244 063 MT which is 135 percent more than 103 684 MT obtained during 2019/2020 season.
Finger millet production is expected to be at 13 223 MT which is 35 percent more than 9 799 MT produced in the 2018/2019 season.”
The prospects for the 2021-2022 are even brighter.
An upbeat Prof Ncube said the nation should brace for another bumper harvest.
“Two successive good seasons is a good thing and I look forward to that and we would be prepared for that,” he said.
“Trust me on providing inputs and any other farmer-support schemes we need to lend.
It means we are going to have a bumper harvest and two successive bumper harvests in a row that will be really fabulous.
That means we can risk-manage any climate shocks at least in the next couple of years.
If any come along, we would have enough reserves to absorb shocks such as drought.”
The Second Republic has prioritised construction of infrastructure related to food security and the impending wet season bodes well with that vision.
“We want to make sure that our dams begin to support our agriculture,” said Prof Ncube.
“So, investing in evacuating the water from the dams is really the way to go so that whether it rains or it doesn’t we are still able to irrigate and support our agriculture.
That is why I am setting aside part of the resources from the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to support smallholder farmer irrigation so that we can have irrigation and climate proof their production activities.”
The news keeps on getting better.Recently, during a tour of Dorowa Minerals Phosphate Mine by Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, it was revealed that Zimbabwe is poised to become phosphate fertiliser self-sufficient through the construction of a processing plant in Buhera.
This development will reduce the fertiliser import bill which reached US$800 million in the last five years.
As Zimbabwe marches ahead with its economic revival efforts, it is time for all citizens to put their hands on deck.
Let those with ears listen.