‘Leave no rural population behind’

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A MULTI-FACETED Zimbabwe economic development approach to enable the country to become one of the world’s upper middle-income nations by 2030 needs to prioritise the 80 percent-plus rural population’s role in its programmes.
Although official economic statistics are hard to come by, we are all aware that Zimbabwe’s per capita income is much lower in the rural than in the urban areas.
That means, in simpler terms, that poverty is much higher in the rural areas than in urban centres, and that also means, if we are to uplift the national standard of living to that of middle income nations in the next 12 years, much economic development must target where the majority of Zimbabwe’s population lives — and that is the rural areas.
Zimbabwe’s present population is, without any doubt, slightly more than 15 million of whom most live in the rural areas.
Those areas are divided into four categories — communal lands, resettlement areas, large scale commercial farms and small-scale commercial holdings, originally called native purchase areas (NPA).
In addition to these four land categories, there are some Government farms on which there are relatively few people, many of whom live there as either employees or illegally.
A very insignificant number of people are also found on parks and other unspecified rural areas.
Poverty is rampant in all these rural areas, with the exception of large commercial farms and a few small-scale commercial holdings.
Three major factors contribute to the Zimbabwe rural regions’ high poverty incidence.
The first and most serious is drought, an extraneous variable over which neither the Government nor the affected people have control.
The best that can be done about drought is to predict its occurrences and there-after drill boreholes and then rely on underground water until hopefully the next rainy season.
Drought resistant crops can be resorted to by appropriate farmers who would then hope to find markets for their yields.
So serious is drought in Zimbabwe that in the 1982-1992 decade, it occurred four times with devastating effects each time.
It occurred in the 1982/83/84, and again in the period 1987/88 as well as in the 1991/92 seasons.
A second negative factor to the Zimbabwean agricultural sector is lack of capital to promote modern scientific agricultural production.
It could help the Government’s economic development programme in the next 12 years if a purely agricultural bank with all the necessary stringent security features was launched by the Government.
Such a bank could have five sectors — livestock, horticulture, cropping, poultry and aquaculture.
Some of those sections could be offered very short-term loan schemes, with others getting medium to long-term.
Agreements could be entered into between Zimbabwe and some friendly countries to finance the creation of that type of bank on the understanding that what is produced would be exported to that country.
The aim would be to economically empower the rural people by enabling them to own some chickens as a start.
From that low economic level, they could rise to that of owing bigger livestock such as goats, pigs and, ultimately, cattle.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wish to enable every Zimbabwean to earn about US$2 300 annually by 2030 can be achieved if the country’s economic development policy prioritises the rural-based population in its poverty alleviation projects.
The third and very important factor to Zimbabwe’s socio-economic welfare is the rate at which its population increases annually.
A family of four members who live from hand-to-mouth, and is virtually unable to clothe themselves or to afford adequate accommodation for their members, would obviously not be advised to increase their number to above four.
It is vital to teach Zimbabweans that a family’s quality of life does not depend only on its individual member’s wishes and contributions.
Its quality of life is also actually determined by the family members’ collective contributions to its upkeep.
What each family member contributes qualitatively and quantitatively is determined largely by the member’s professional standing as well as his or her life style.
While we are on this basic aspect of Zimbabwe’s human life, we must add that children (one-18yrs) do not normally contribute to their respective families’ economic upkeep as they are considered too young or are at school, therefore dependent on either their parents or guardians.
As a child grows, he/she contributes services and very, very few goods to the family’s basic requirements.
However, he/she needs food, beverages, clothing, accommodation, medical and education services, sports equipment and facilities.
Some of these are provided by the state, which means that the larger a country’s population becomes, the more schools and hospitals it requires. But the country’s economy may not grow at the same rate that is pari passu, with the population’s birth rate.
In such a case, and Zimbabwe is certainly one such case, a need to control the population’s growth rate becomes necessary, if not inevitable.
An important strength Zimbabwe can use to pull itself out of the econo-industrial trough in which it presently finds itself is the large number of highly qualified personnel produced by its polytechnical colleges and its technical universities.
A large number of technicians graduate from the country’s half-a-dozen polytechs and 12 universities yearly.
Those graduates are virtually an immeasurable source of industrial innovation. All they need is Government (yes Government) encouragement and support in both cash and kind to launch industries to serve particularly Zimbabwe and the SADC region.
Such a national programme could contribute in no small measure to the region’s projected economic integration.
Zimbabwe-based companies in the mining industry, energy, transport and the safari-hunting sectors can open subsidiaries in most SADC states, a development that can bring SADC’s economic integration a step closer to reality.
The Government has to take the lead to float such ideas as these, and facilitate their introduction.
Their implementation can be left to the business world, especially between now and 2030, to make President Mnangagwa’s wonderful economic idea become a reality.
Saul Gwakuba-Ndlovu, is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sgwakuba@gmail.com

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