I LISTENED to former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annanâ€™s appeal for the creation of a green revolution in Africa with keen interest.
He mentioned the importance of having the correct inputs for the farmers of Africa. Among the inputs he mentioned fertiliser and seed but I believe it would take a lot more for agriculture to prosper.
After nine years of conservation and extension work in all of Zimbabweâ€™s regions, along with 43 years of farming experience in the Mazoe Valley, I venture to suggest that the great success of commercial agriculture between the years 1950-2001 are as a result of the following conditions which were slowly introduced over the years:
*Secure tenure of surveyed holdings;
*Correct sized economic units for each ecological region;
*A ready supply of low interest short and long term loan finance;
*Supplementary irrigation where rainfall is erratic and;
If African governments aimed to incorporate these seven components into their agricultural policies the great success that was Zimbabwe could be repeated elsewhere in Africa.
After the land grabs starting in 2000 of most of the commercial farms in Zimbabwe and ultimately the settlement of people who lacked farming experience, a system of command agriculture was introduced.
Seven years later every aspect of production has declined. Yields have spiralled steadily downwards since and the aforementioned seven components have been completely ignored or at best been paid lip service.
The 2007/8 agricultural season was heralded as the “mother of all seasons” even though dismal results are again becoming evident despite the above average rainfall. The major casualty is the nationâ€™s main staple food, maize.
The parlous state of agriculture in Zimbabwe demonstrates the futility of applying command structure elements to an industry that operates best under free market conditions. The marketing structure is chaotic and the black market thrives at the ordinary consumerâ€™s expense.