By Donald Mushowe
Agriculture is the art or science of cultivating the ground, including the harvesting of crops, and the rearing and management of livestock, according to an online dictionary. We can expand the definition to include the marketing of the produce obtained. Our economy as Zimbabwe is known to be agro based.
This means our economy as a country heavy relies on agricultural production. It also spells out that the major industry in Zimbabwe is agriculture. Our gross domestic product ( GDP) is dominated by agricultural production. A poor agricultural season means our economy makes a nose dive.
Our earnings as a country go down as we have nothing significant to sell, while we raid nostro accounts to import food. The current food crisis which is a result of poor agricultural season and Cyclone Idai spell is a good scenario, to illustrate the effects of drought on an agro-based economy.
Calamities of nature
Zimbabwe is not the only agro-based economy in the world. We have a number of countries in the world who have thriving economies, even in the face of serious calamities like cyclones and deadly ravishing droughts. India was primarily agro-based until the 1970s, but now agriculture is 14% of their GDP.
Brazil from the late 19th century until 1929 heavily relied on their coffee plantations. These countries have since turned the curve and are now industrial based economies, but still agricultural productivity has increased in alarming proportions.
The issue is that there is need to make agriculture profitable, that is monetize it, in order to industrialize an economy.
Reverting to the Zimbabwean situation, that is exactly what is needed. Most economists and agro-experts always say it that we need money as the primary thing to boost agriculture in Zimbabwe.
The major challenge we are facing is seasonal agriculture, when the economy is rain-dependent. We have ±70% of our population in rural areas depending mostly on agriculture. Water becomes a pertinent resource.
If we could harness our water resources we could monetise agriculture. On the 11th of January I had an exciting conversation with Dickson Kubvakacha over the issue of making agriculture bankable in Zimbabwe.
Kubvakacha is the Chairperson of Coalition of Agricultural Graduates of Zimbabwe ( CAGOZ). He said they have brought graduates under one roof across the country. They have national, provincial and district structures in every corner of Zimbabwe.
The vision is to make sure these graduates are harnessed to start producing for the country.
A big stride they have made is engaging Ministry of Agriculture officials, they are at a stage where they are selling their vision to Ministry, and so far the ministry is giving them a warm reception.
CAGOZ is an agro think-tank of some sort, which is coming up with various farming models.
We are also saying if these well trained graduates are given land and tasked to produce according to their expertise it will go a long way.
Various models of land ownership exist, that is, actual allocation, leasing or partnership; all are forms of making land accessible to people with skills to utilize it efficiently for the good of Zimbabwe, said Kubvakacha.
He also said the initiative has also helped account for all the agricultural expertise in the country. Now we know who does what, and where they are in the country.
This information helps graduates themselves, government and other stakeholders in implementating agricultural projects and initiatives, he said. This group is also saying since they have various skills among their membership, they can also provide broad consultant services.
A farmer knocking on CAGOZ doors will be directed to experts in his area who will attend to his problem.
However the big question will always hover around how to monetize agriculture. Given that government and stakeholders priorities harvesting water production becomes certain.
If a fund is set up to drill solar powered boreholes, start with areas which receive less rainfall, and providing fencing of farms, we will be certain that even without rain production is most likely to be high.
The farmers can then be given 6 months to work the land and start paying back the loan. The loan naturally will attract interests, and is paid back into the fund. The fund is maintained as a revolving fund such that more boreholes can be drilled with the fund self sustaining.
Meanwhile giving people inputs is an excellent idea, giving them water provides the option of garanteeing production on farms. If the rains are erratic even after receiving inputs production is not possible or minimum, worse some people can sell the inputs.
Selling the water
However it becomes tricky to prevent production because people are selling water!
After giving people water that is where CAGOZ comes in with substantial weight. A farmer who has a borehole or a permanent water source for irrigation can now approach CAGOZ and have a graduate at his disposal. The graduate will evaluate the land and come up with an ideal farming model.
Once the graduate has done that they can approach a bank for a loan. It becomes practical for someone in Kotwa, Bushu or Mberengwa who has an A1 or A2 farm with a 99 year lease, a farming model ideal for his land and a graduate to supervise it and implement it, to approach a bank for a loan. Once this farmer starts production in this manner loans are payable.
This is the kind of farmer who will apply for insurance and commercialise his operations. Seasonal farming without water is more of subsistence than commercial.
Even industry can’t rely on local farmers for raw materials hence the heavy reliance on imports. This makes the CAGOZ initiative something that can be used as a backbone to commercialise and monitise agriculture in Zimbabwe.
Kubvakacha said if a graduate is engaged by individual farmer, there are various ways cover the whole issue of wages, he said various payment models also exist which will make both the farmer and graduate smile.
He also said they are open to work with all stakeholders to design and implement various farming models. True to their word they are already pursuing a long lasting relationship with the government in trying to consolidate efforts to ensure food security in the country.
We are not partisan or pursuing another agenda which is outside of ensuring high agro productivity and employment creation for agriculture graduates, he said.
Next week we explore agricultural tourism and value addition as we dig deeper into the issue of monetising agriculture and industrialisation.
Donald Mushove is an Agricultural Economist, and a member of the 100 Sailors community. The views expressed here are his own. Contact him on +263 77 747 9781.
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