With the resettled farmer at heart

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THERE is this fashionable temptation of concluding, perhaps prematurely, that resettled farmers are a failure without first considering the environment in which they are operating.      

Here, we are talking about resettled farmers who emerged after the successful Land Reform Programme of 2000.

That gives them about 19 years. To judge them fairly, we have to go back in history to when our colonisers grabbed our land in 1890. We know, initially, their interest was in getting gold from this land before they realised there wasn’t as much of the mineral as they had anticipated at that time.

Thus, the whites turned to commercial farming.

For years, these colonialists were given soft loans with generous grace periods before they started repaying. Despite this massive assistance, farming was not considered a success story until the late 1950s – a period of over 60 years!

That is three times the period our present commercial farmers have been in existence. Our resettled farmers, some of whom were straight from the war front, had no knowledge of farming at a commercial level.

Some had no resources whatsoever, but needed to start a successful farming venture on virgin land. Massive handholding was therefore inevitable.

True, some Government input schemes have been abused by farmers who tended to sell, at a song, whatever inputs they were given. But inputs alone were not enough.

What was needed was assistance backed by close supervision to ensure accountability. Here, AGRITEX officers could have come in handy, not only to supervise but also to offer advice.

As it is, these farmers were like a ship without a rudder.

Even as we speak, these farmers appear to have no strong representative voice to speak on their behalf.

They seem to fall outside the ambit of both the Commercial Farmers Union  and the Zimbabwe Farmers Union.

These two seem to represent a breed of farmers established before the emergence of our present resettled farmers.

Because of sanctions and the resultant economic challenges, representative bodies like the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) and the Retailers Association of Zimbabwe (RAZ), just to mention a few, have had the opportunity to present their cases to Government.

The way these organisations are affected by the adverse economic environment is the very way resettled farmers are also affected.

Government has gone that extra mile to assist our manufacturers and industry to perform.

Unfortunately, results have been disappointing.

However, the poor performance by our manufacturers and the continued low capacity utilisation by industry seem to have been tolerated.

We submit that this same tolerance be extended to the resettled farmer who, apart from sanctions, is also battling drought and other weather vagaries. 

Indeed, the main reason for the illegal sanctions imposed by the West was to make sure resettled farmers would fail after taking over from our erstwhile colonisers.

Export incentives to improve foreign currency earnings from our minerals, like gold and platinum, are a good idea.

But similar incentives should be extended to the resettled farmer.

Otherwise the whole purpose is defeated if foreign cash earned from mineral exports boosted by incentives is spent on wheat and maize imports, which could have been grown by a motivated resettled farmer.

The resettled farmer needs our support as opposed to outright condemnation.

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