By Daniel Chigundu
FINANCE and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa says government has secured more than US$423 million to support agricultural activities in the impending 2016/2017 season.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the Zimbabwean economy and is generally believed that it provides livelihoods to about 80 percent of the country’s population, on top of linkages it has with other sectors of the economy.
Speaking at the official launch of the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP):2016 to 2018, minister Chinamasa said agriculture plays an important role in reducing poverty and therefore requires support if the country is to attain food security.
“Agricultural remains the anchor of poverty reduction and this was a common outcome throughout the consultations. Accordingly, this Pillar recognises the important role of agriculture as the backbone of the economy.
“Proposed interventions are centred around guaranteeing food security through special maize production, enhancing productivity, expanding irrigation rehabilitation and development in view of the risks associated with climate change, providing access to sustainable and affordable capital, access to markets for agriculture commodities and revival of agricultural parastatals.
“On our part for the 2016/2017 agricultural season we are putting our money where our mouth is.
“Already Government secured more than US$423 million towards supporting the 2016/2017 agricultural season and the objective is to be self-sufficient in food security in the event that heavens smile on us and give us normal rains this season,” he said.
The country has not been able to produce enough food since 2000 when it embarked on the chaotic land reform exercise which was often accompanied by violence.
Majority of rural people have mostly relied on food aid from development partners and government has been importing grain from Brazil and neighbouring countries to supplement the meagre local production.
Although a few of the resettled farmers have been trying to produce, their efforts have been let down most of the time by harsh and unpredictable weather conditions and lack of financial support from financing institutions.
Meanwhile, Minister Chinamasa has said government will be scaling up adaptation and mitigation measures to help the agriculture sector deal with the issue of climate change.
Some of the strategies include development of efficient irrigation systems, breeding of drought tolerant crop varieties, on-farm value addition and farmers’ support in linkages to lucrative markets.
Chinamasa added that focus will also be mitigating the environmental challenges relating to pollution, poor waste management, deforestation and land degradation, veld fires, poaching and biodiversity.