THE Utete Land Review Committee has recommended an overhaul of government machinery to raise agricultural productivity through better land use and management.
The report, made available to the Zimbabwe Independent this week, makes no new revelations on the land reform saga as the team glossed over issues and in some instances merely regurgitated official mantras that the programme was a victim of international sanctions.
The report was compiled by a team headed by former Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Charles Utete and was handed to President Mugabe last month.
While the report has not yet been made public, the government has already started to implement some of its recommendations. On the whole however, the report merely states the obvious.
It recommends the setting up of a ministry responsible for agriculture and water development to focus on agricultural production and marketing of produce. This should be complemented by an Agricultural Marketing Council to oversee the marketing of crops in the domestic, regional and international markets.
Last Friday, Agriculture minister Joseph Made was reported as saying government was planning to revive the Agricultural Marketing Authority.
The committee also recommended the formation of a ministry of land affairs to deal with land distribution, allocation and tenure systems, among other issues.
It also said government should set up a semi-autonomous National Land Board to ensure that land allocated under the agrarian reform is fully utilised. The board will also render advisory and executive assistance to the land affairs ministry.
In the current government set-up there are three ministries dealing with land, resettlement, agriculture and water development.
The team has also recommended a restructuring of parastatals involved in agriculture. The team said the boards of parastatals should be abolished as they had failed to “add value to the effectiveness of the entities they run”.
“Boards are a financial burden, manipulated in the name of politics, and conversely, have used this situation as an excuse for inefficiency and ineffectiveness,” the report said.
It said parastatals should be converted into private companies in which government retains all or the majority of the shareholding.
The team also said Agribank should be converted from a commercial bank to a land bank to be known as the Agricultural Development Bank. The new land bank would operate on the basis of cost-recovery. The government has already appointed a team to speed up the transformation of the bank.
The review team also recommended the streamlining of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) so that it focuses on maintaining strategic grain reserves.
“Trading and milling of grain should not be the responsibility of the GMB, nor the distribution of inputs,” the report said.
The team also said the GMB’s monopoly on grain trade should end to allow other players onto the market. The team said this would improve food availability.