Net closes in on unproductive farmers

MORE than 228 000 resettled farmers have tendered productivity reports from last year to Government in compliance with new regulations to ensure optimum use of farmland.

About 80 percent of A2 farmers, who were resettled during the Land Reform Programme, met the February 15 deadline to submit production returns, while 60 percent of all A1 farmers beat the cut-off date.

Last year, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development invoked the Agricultural Marketing Authority Act, which compels farmers to submit production returns to the Government annually.

Authorities will deploy Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) officers to undertake separate audits to authenticate the submissions.

Auditing of farm records is expected to expose multiple farm-owners, including abandoned, rundown and underutilised farms that will be appropriated for redistribution to some of the 200 000 people on the waiting list.

Nearly 380 000 A1 and A2 farmers all beneficiaries of the Land Reform Programme – are affected by the exercise.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera said response to the call for submission of production records has been “incredible”.

“Of course the offtake was a little bit slow,” he said.

“Obviously some farmers were a little bit sceptical on submitting their returns, but it is now a statutory requirement that they submit the returns every February.

“So far, in terms of submissions of production and productivity returns, we are looking at over 60 percent now.

“For A2 farmers, I am pretty sure that we are over 80 percent now.

“But A1 farmers that’s where we need to disseminate more information on the importance of production and productivity returns.”

The reports, he said, would guide Government in formulating policy conducive to increased agricultural production.

Crucially, information gathered is expected to assist the ministry, through Provincial Land Committees (PLCs), to carry out the new policy on land focusing on redistribution of abandoned, derelict and underutilised farms as well as address multiple land ownership.

Previously, Government said farmers who fail to submit their returns will be deemed to be in the above categories and their farms may be offered to PLCs for reallocation to those on the waiting list.

Farmers who submit false information also risk having their offer letters withdrawn.

Added Dr Basera: “We need those reports so that we are able to make policy and to inform policy in terms of what challenges our farmers are facing.

“Production and productivity returns inform Government in terms of the amount of land being utilised; the amount of resources being utilised, because these are key ingredients to agricultural transformation.”

However, the reports submitted so far indicate significant growth in production, he said.

Rising production has anchored substantial growth of the agriculture sector’s contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product over the last two years.

The government has now revised the sector’s growth target from US$8,2 billion by the year 2025, which has already been achieved, to US$10 billion for the same period.

The sector grew by 36,2 percent to US$8,19 billion last year guided by the

Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy (AFSTS) (2020-2025), which seeks to revive, restructure, reform, rebuild and transform agriculture.

The strategy is anchored on four pillars: enabling agriculture policy and the regulatory environment to facilitate the flow of investment into the sector; appropriate agriculture investments for productivity, food security and resilience; efficient agricultural knowledge, technology and innovation system; and the agriculture sector coordination for responsive planning, implementation monitoring and evaluation.

This year, the agriculture sector is projected to grow by a further 10 percent.

Added Dr Basera: “Certainly, there are positives; as they say, numbers don’t lie.

“Our numbers are looking pretty good in terms of food production.

“For example, we are pretty much food-secure and of course with a surplus of about 100 000 tonnes in terms of grain.

“Even if you look at horticulture, there is growth in terms of hectarage, production and productivity.”

The livestock subsector, he said, grew by over 20 percent last year, while the dairy subsector gained by 4 percent.

“So, the reports are very fundamental for us to know where we are and where we are coming from in the agricultural space.

“So there is some growth and we hope we continue in that trajectory.”

He called on farmers who are yet to submit their reports to do so.

“Since it is a statutory requirement that farmers must submit those, there are repercussions for those who fail to do so. But, obviously, we do not expect our farmers resist that position.”ut, obviously, we do not expect our farmers resist that position.”

Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Mr Paul Zakariya said: “For planning purposes, it is important that related data be collected and analysed in good time.

“In agriculture, farmers should provide production data which indicates the extent of production.

“This information will inform on where support efforts should be directed.”

(The Sunday Mail)