IN a major climb-down showing that government’s much publicised land reform programme has failed, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono has recommended bringing back specialised commercial
farmers to arrest the country’s deteriorating economy.
In his monetary policy review yesterday, Gono said because of the special knowledge and skills required and explicit patenting systems in terms of production breeds as well as marketing licensing, there was need to promote joint ventures between new farmers and former operators in horticulture.
“In order to ensure maximum productivity levels, there is great scope in the country promoting and supporting ventures between new farmers with progressive-minded former operators of horticulture estates, as well as other new investors, so as to hasten skills transfer cycle,” Gono said.
Sources in the central bank said overtures to bring back specilalised farmers were not restricted to the horticulture sector alone but encompass a wider range of farmers evicted during the haphazard fast-track land reform.
They include dairy farmers, conservancy owners, beef cattle producers, as well as pigs, eggs and chicken producers and dairy farmers.
“Under this arrangement, the new investors, or skilled former operators will be given special dispensation and guarantees of uninterrupted productive tenure of five to 10 years, backed by a resolute fight against any disruptions on the farms by the relevant arms of government,” Gono said.
Gono two months ago denied a Zimbabwe Independent story that he was luring back some evicted farmers saying, “the story was not only false but seriously mischievous and calculated to cause confusion among stakeholders in the country as nothing of that sort has been conceived nor even thought necessary”.
To guarantee the country’s food security and self-sufficiency, Gono is advocating a “stick and carrot command agriculture” where only performing farmers get government support.
“Farmers will be vetted to ensure that only high performing farmers benefit from support and flash out non-performers,” he said.
“Selection of farmers who will participate in specific crops will be based on demonstrated capacity to produce, based on seasons’ sales records and with a verifiable track record.”
He announced a $2,5 trillion package for agricultural recovery to finance irrigation, dairy farms, horticulture and specialised crops like tobacco and soya beans.
Gono also called for the implementation of a tenure system that makes agriculture bankable.
“A programme to speed up the drawing up of 99-year leases together with surveys to back up those leases with secondary title deeds should be undertaken as complementary to the land reform programme and its full utilisation,” he said.
Gono said the implementation should be coupled with timeous setting and announcement of pre-planting prices as well timely payments for produce to avoid side marketing.
Analysts said the command agriculture system will be a direct shift from government’s populist policy where farmers indiscriminately accessed land and government inputs. Government’s populist stance relegated Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of Africa to a net importer of food as vast stretches of former productive land lie idle.