Four months after the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front won the elections under the theme: Taking back the economy- indigenise, empower, develop and create employment, there is still debate about whether the country’s land reform is a success or not.
ZANU-PF says it is. Two academic books published recently concur that it is. But the situation on the ground says otherwise. Some 2.2 million people need food relief. So critics have every right to ask why ZANU-PF and the government can claim that land reform is a success when people cannot feed themselves.
Those who argue that land reform is a success say the figure of 2.2 million is exaggerated. The World Food Programme which came up with the figure wants such a high number to raise money and for critics of land reform the figure is clear testimony that the programme has failed.
Forget the estimate of people needing food. Let’s look at the production figures for maize. According to the African Development Bank, Zimbabwe’s national requirement for maize is 1.8 million tonnes. Estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture say Zimbabwe produced only 798 600 tonnes this year leaving a deficit of more than one million tonnes. What is more worrying is that this year’s crop was a drop from 968 000 tonnes produced last year.
The Grain Marketing Board only had 21 891 tonnes in its stocks. The strategic grain reserve should be 500 000 tonnes, which is nearly three times more than the 177 000 tonnes that the country needs for the 2.2 million.
The African Development Bank says the area dedicated to maize was down and could decline as people switch to more viable crops like tobacco.
So what is the story about tobacco? As at 2 August some 164.1 million kgs had been delivered. This translated to $605.2 million for farmers. The area under tobacco increased from 76 359 hectares last year to 88 623 ha. Yield also improved while that for maize declined.
Production of sugarcane, where new farmers especially in the Lowveld are flocking to, increased from 3.9 million tonnes last year to 4.1 million tonnes. The area under cultivation also increased from 42 940 hectares to 44 818 hectares.
What does this tell us, then? That Zimbabwe could produce enough food for itself but no one is setting the direction. People are therefore growing crops from which they can make money, but no one is focussing on food security. Yet, ZANU-PF cannot meet its goals unless it addresses the issue of food security.
There can be no development if Zimbabwe cannot meet the three basic needs- food, water and shelter. Of the three, food is the most important.
The world’s richest economy, the United States, developed because it prioritised production of food. Even today it subsidises its farmers to grow more food than the country needs.
That is the way Zimbabwe should go. It should focus on the production of food first, and then grow other crops. Sadly even the ZANU-PF manifesto does not address the issue of food security. It talks about everything else but food.
Here are the 23 goals the party lists as the goals of the people:
- Freedom & democracy
- Health for all
- Respect for the values and ideals of the liberation struggle
- The youth as the future
- Gender equality
- Housing for all
- Respect for the elderly
- Respect for persons with disabilities
- Economic prosperity
- Education for all
- Freedom of worship