Leadership and the human factor in promoting agriculture


IN our previous episode of this discussion on the human factor challenge in sustaining agricultural productivity, we showed that efficient action was required of persons engaged at various points in the production chain.
We recognised the need for farmers/managers to be knowledgeable and committed as well as bankers to be familiar with crop/livestock production cycles so as to disburse funds in a timely manner.
Even extended business hours for input suppliers would enable farmers to buy and transport inputs to the farms in time to plant.
In this episode, we give further illustrations of the critical importance of the human factor content for sustainable agricultural productivity. We further elaborate on strategies to build the correct human factor content among agricultural actors. Examples of external forces that cause human factor decay for political reasons are also mentioned.
We start by looking at how the human factor content of farmers leaders affects agricultural productivity. To be able to lobby Government for a larger share of the national budget, to advocate for policy changes that favour local production versus food imports, to mobilise financial and other resources from local and off-shore sources, farmers need to be organised and articulate their needs effectively.
The quality of leadership among farmers is critical for them to contribute meaningfully to local agricultural commodity production.
Farmers’ unions need strong and committed leadership. They need leadership that speaks for the interests of their members. Such leadership should have a shared national vision of where Zimbabwe’s economy is heading. Such leadership must possess the correct human factor content; knowledge, experience, commitment, clarity of vision and patriotism.
Farmers’ unions leaders must be prepared to fight for the interests of farmers and agriculture in general. For that to happen their human factor content must be of the highest quality.
If meetings are called by, for example, regulatory authorities, these farmers’ leaders must attend so as to articulate farmers’ positions. If the leaders fail to attend meetings or come late, or go in and doze off or wait to receive per diem payments offered by workshop organisers, so as to go for shopping, then their human factor content becomes questionable.
Technical and other relevant information availed at agriculture workshop meetings will not reach the generality of farmers if representatives do not make the effort to attend, gather and disseminate the information. Weak farmers’ unions leadership results in weak structures and poor information/technology dissemination and utilisation. Overall agricultural productivity becomes compromised due to these human factor challenges.
The human factor content of farmers’ unions leaders has significant impact on agricultural productivity. In Zimbabwe the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) representing white farmers’ interests played a strong advocacy role for its membership, engaging government to lobby and advocate for favourable commodity prices and policy changes. Their fight to keep the farms and exclude blacks was, however, racist and unacceptable human factor content.
Unions representing black farmers need to do more to effectively articulate the interests of their members given the favourable political dispensation that came with independence in 1980. Notable examples of committed and visionary farmer-leaders include national hero Gary Magadzire who fought long and hard for the interests of black farmers in Zimbabwe.
Some union leaders have used their positions to advance individual interests, even setting up briefcase companies to import equipment and make a quick buck on the back of Government efforts to mechanise and improve agricultural productivity. Back-up services for some of the equipment brought in through these deals has not been forthcoming.
The weaknesses of black farmers’ unions are largely a reflection of human factor content deficiencies among the leadership. They need training and correct political orientation towards national values. That responsibility ultimately falls on government to provide policy guidelines and leadership.
Several non-governmental organisations have come with funding for training to strengthen black farmers unions but many of their efforts have been proxies for regime change agendas and have been doomed to failure.
They have compromised the quality of the human factor content of farmers organisations’ leadership by seeking their buy-in into dubious politically-motivated initiatives to form opposition parties using agriculture as a cover-up.
Ultimately interventions by many foreign organisations results in African human factor decay where leaders cease to represent the people’s interests and pander to foreign agendas.
Limited local funding for farmer-leader training has allowed many anti-Zimbabwe NGOs to sneak in promising to fund farmers’ training while in fact dispensing subversive ideas through these programmes. These practices have undermined the human factor content of targeted farming communities, further dampening agricultural productivity.
The donor-dependency syndrome that has been deliberately cultivated by foreign NGOs especially among food-insecure rural communities has been a major factor compromising agricultural productivity. This syndrome has degraded the human factor content of local communities by degrading their zeal to work hard and to find solutions to their everyday economic challenges.
Targeted African communities have been made to believe that there are benevolent white people (donors) out there who care very much for poor black people. Good examples include NGOs distributing food hand-outs.
While temporary relief through hand-outs of essential food is acceptable, deliberate creation of a culture of dependency among communities is totally unacceptable. It is a strategy by Western-sponsored NGOs to perpetuate black poverty by causing human factor content decay with communities losing their capacity and will to work hard and innovate so as to improve productivity in enterprises such as agriculture.
Donor dependency flies against our African values of hard work and self-sufficiency and even the principles of Zimbabwe’s economic blue-print, Zim-ASSET.
The overall lesson for Zimbabwe is that the nation must deliberately build its human capacity through investment in educating and grooming the future leaders in agriculture and other livelihood enterprises. Correct education is the main tool for creating the right human factor content among our people.
Do university and college of agriculture curricula include education for leadership in agriculture? If a truly pan-African agriculture curriculum is implemented in our educational institutions it would produce a cadre with the right human factor content to lead agriculture to the ‘promised land’ of sustainable food and income security.
The same principle will apply to other sectors of the economy.
We cannot avoid swinging back to the education curriculum in our discussion on the correct human factor content to uplift agriculture.
We have made reference to school pupils being punished through physical work such as working in the garden or school plot. Such practices create negative attitudes towards agriculture among school pupils. Now that agriculture has become part of the school curriculum, one looks to its elevation in status to be even more key than the proverbial English language at ordinary level.
Can we reach a status where we require 5 ‘O’ (Ordinary) level passes including Agriculture? If we do, then we as a country would be walking the talk that ‘Zimbabwe’s economy is agriculture-based’.
If that comes to pass, the pan-Africanists will celebrate while all the black Englishmen wearing black skins, and who continue to look to the Queen of England for ‘standards’, will be mourning. May that day come soon!
Many of us still need liberation of the mind. The education system has compromised our human factor content to an extent we are willing actors in our own economic and social marginalisation by the West. The colonial education system creates the human factor content that says you look for a job, you work for somebody, not yourself!
Look today, that ‘worker’/human factor content is taking us nowhere with thousands of high school and university graduates thronging the streets looking for non-existent jobs!
Do not try them for agriculture, there will be very few takers!
The struggle to free Africa from hunger and poverty continues!


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