Open letter to the President (Part I)

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It is with a heightened sense of urgency and patriotism that I write this letter to you.
I am the man who interfaced with you at the recent Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce congress in Victoria Falls three weeks ago. Your response to my submission on how to raise agricultural yields per hectare using cost-effective and readily accessible locally-generated know-how that will cut the learning curve for our emergent farmers to almost zero days revealed that you are an experienced and productive farmer.
Your Excellency, I am in no way about to hitch onto the wagon of hagiography. The way you traced the progression of maize productivity from pre-independence to the current global best practices was backed by verifiable numbers — that is the basis of my compliment.
I am a farmer too. I am fully aware you regularly quote the Bible. I would like, through this letter to engage with you on the state of our economy and its future path from the perspective of farming as revealed in the Bible.
Your Excellency, the secrets of national financial-economic planning and management are hidden in farming. It is very useful to think like a farmer when we approach the matters of national financial-economic planning. The fields of economics and finance unconsciously employ farming language such as produce, yield, seed money, plant (factory system), for instance.
The term multiplier loved of economists comes from farming by way of God’s famous “be fruitful and multiply” injunction.
When I began to bring farming thinking into financial-economic planning and analysis, I found out that there are national financial-economic sins we are committing. I would like to bring these financial and economic sins to your attention.
The first sin is that our current national thinking is placing mining ahead of farming.
Your Excellency, the Bible teaches that man’s first occupation is farming. In Genesis 2:8 (NKJV) the Bible puts it as follows: “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.” Your Excellency, God Himself, engaged in farming.
Genesis 2:15 (NKJV) repeats the same thought in Genesis 2:8, with additional information: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”
So God asked man to do what He had first done Himself; farming. Your Excellency, the pattern of literary writing, we are presented with here is peculiar to Hebrew thinking; it is called chiastic or ABA thinking. Your financial and economic advisors may not be aware of this way of thinking because it is not taught in the educational systems that are influenced by the educational philosophies of the Greeks and the Romans. This is how ABA thinking works; the text sandwiched between two similar thoughts has extremely important information.
So in the case in point, Genesis 2:8 is our A, Genesis 2:15 is our A and Genesis 2:9-14 is our B. We must think deeply on the B section as it carries financial-economic wisdom that one can easily pass over.
In the B section, we have two verses, Genesis 2:11, 12 (NKJV) which read as follows: “The name of the first (river) is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there.”
Your Excellency, herein lies uncommon wisdom that your economic advisors may reject, but to our peril—despite there being a huge endowment of high quality minerals, Adam, representing mankind was assigned farming, not mining.
Your Excellency, we do not produce minerals — we simply extract them — this is not production. That is why we cannot build a sound and sustainable economy on mining, unless we do value-addition. The Bible supplies the wisdom that the foundation of an economy is farming. It’s farming first.
A second pearl of wisdom is that in the beginning, gold and precious stones were not part of the production system and thus were neither money nor wealth.
Your Excellency, this is why in Job 1:3 we do not have gold and silver being listed as part of Job’s asset list, though the Bible says Job was the greatest man in all the Ancient Near East. His assets or his “money” were camels, cattle, sheep and donkeys, not gold and silver. This is also why Jacob declined a salary adjustment in gold and silver, preferring to be paid in livestock.
Your Excellency, as a knowledgeable farmer yourself, you are more than likely to be aware that the economy of our country was historically anchored on agriculture, not mining.
I would like to share with you the following statistics to bolster my point. The 1975 United Nations Food and Agricultural Year Book has preserved powerful records on Zimbabwe’s agricultural output. Zimbabwe was ranked number two in the whole world in terms of productivity (yields per hectare) in soya beans, maize, groundnuts and winter wheat.
For Virginia tobacco, Zimbabwe was ranked number 1 in the world in terms of quality and yield per hectare and number 2 in terms of raw tonnage output.
Mazoe Citrus was the single largest producer of oranges. The Chisumbanje Cotton Estate held the world record of raw cotton output of four tonnes per hectare, with no fertilizer added.
Your Excellency, records show that 70% of the raw materials for our manufacturing industry where the value-addition of our agricultural output was done came from our own local farming efforts. Manufacturing ticked because farming ticked.
Your Excellency, we still have mines intact, but our economy is not recovering to its glory days. The strength of the local currency during the glorious days of our pre-colonial and post-colonial agriculture is well-known — its strength and stability were based on real production anchored on agriculture, not mining.
We are in a sad era of national economics because we seem to think that mining and playing around with monetary and fiscal policy will get us out of the economic challenge. A simple analysis asking the question on how many jobs and manufacturing industries are supported by our local mining will show that the contribution is extremely low. If the same question is put to our past agriculture, the answer will point to the fact that whole towns and cities were anchored on agriculture, not mining.
Admittedly, the bulk of our export earnings are coming from mineral exports, but those earnings are wiped out completely by imports of value-added goods and food that we used to manufacture here wholly or largely from the agro-raw materials we produced in this country.
Your Excellency, I move to the second gem of wisdom in the B section of the chiasm. Genesis 2:10 tells us that God invented irrigation and clearly it was his intention that farming be done through irrigation, not through rainfall. This simple idea has made nations great.
Your Excellency, the Netherlands is the second largest agricultural producer in the world, largely because 14% of its geographical area is under irrigation.
Your Excellency, to give you a picture of the sheer scale of irrigation in the United States; the total area under irrigation in the US is larger than Zimbabwe — every inch of Zimbabwe would literally be under irrigation. Your Excellency, even the US practices the farming first philosophy.
Your Excellency, the single loudest rallying cry from your government should be farming first, farming first, farming first, irrigation, irrigation, irrigation. Your Excellency, it should be Perrance Shiri, not Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya who should be catching the imagination of the nation.
Brett Chulu is a management consultant and a classic grounded theory researcher who has published research in an academic peer-reviewed international journal. —brettchuluconsultant@gmail.com.

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