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Operation Maguta a flop

Augustine Mukaro

GOVERNMENT’S attempt to boost agricultural production through Operation Maguta has failed dismally, producing less than a quarter of its projections.

The initiative, launched by President Robert Mugabe in December to improve food pro

duction, was projected to produce 2,3 million tonnes of maize, 90 000 tonnes of tobacco, 49 500 tonnes of maize seed, 210 000 tonnes of cotton, 750 000 tonnes of horticultural crops, and 8 250 tonnes of tea.

Production figures released by farmers expose the operation as a big flop.

Masvingo province, which was set to produce 10 000 tonnes now expects a mere 10 tonnes of maize from the army-run food initiative at Nuanetsi Ranch.

Reports from other provinces show that not much will be harvested under the operation for a variety of reasons, including theft of farm equipment by powerful politicians and senior government officials.

In Manicaland, only 40 hectares out of a possible 224 hectares were put under maize crop at Kondozi Estate after six officials, among them State Security minister Didymus Mutasa and Agriculture minister Joseph Made, reportedly took equipment from the estate.

In Mashonaland West, prospects of a bumper yield are very low at Hunyani Farm because of late planting.
Farmers’ organisations have projected a maize harvest of between 600 000 and 800 000 tonnes, which translates to just about one-third of Operation Maguta’s target.

The tobacco component was expected to see around 45 000 tonnes  delivered to the auction floors. That would constitute only half of the targeted production.

Last year, Mugabe told parliament that the introduction of command agriculture under the military would ensure food self-sufficiency.

“To enhance agricultural production and meet national requirements of 1,8 million tonnes of cereals, targeted production has been introduced through Operation Security/Maguta/Inala by government,” Mugabe said in a state-of-the-nation address.
“The major objectives of the programme are to boost the country’s food security and consolidate national strategic reserves.”

He said government’s target was to ensure food security and a surplus for export by putting at least 300 000 hectares of maize under irrigation.

Analysts this week said the targets were missed primarily due to lack of inputs and poor planning on the part of government.

The failure of Maguta was exposed during Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s countrywide tours last week.

In Masvingo Mujuru was so disgusted by the lean harvest that she would not even finish inspecting the army-cultivated fields.

She was shocked to see that nearly all the crop at the giant Nuanetsi estate was a total write-off.

Mujuru cut short her inspection after viewing generally wilted crops.

Zimbabwe has battled severe food shortages since 2000 following the launch of the often-violent land reform programme.

Experts say the controversial land policy has resulted in food production tumbling by about 70% over the past six years.

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