FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator and Representative for Zimbabwe Mr David Phiri, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister (Livestock) Paddy Zhanda, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Her Excellency Catriona Laing, head of DFID in Zimbabwe Ms Annabel Gerry and GRM International Project Director Mr Jorgen Hansen follow proceedings at the launch of the US$72 million programme for the Livelihoods and Food Security in Harare today

FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator and Representative for Zimbabwe Mr David Phiri, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister (Livestock) Paddy Zhanda, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Her Excellency Catriona Laing, head of DFID in Zimbabwe Ms Annabel Gerry and GRM International Project Director Mr Jorgen Hansen follow proceedings at the launch of the US$72 million programme for the Livelihoods and Food Security in Harare today

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Emilia Zindi: Agriculture Editor

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British government has availed a total of $72 million loan facility through its Department for International Development (DFID), to be distributed among smallholder and rural farmers in a move set to boost food production as well as improve their livelihoods by ensuring nutritional food security and income.

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It is anticipated that the four-year programme would see a reduction of food insecurity among a total of 69 795 households (348 975 people) whose farm produce would increase to $70 million.

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The programme would also see a total of 53 200 new smallholder farmers being engaged in contract farming with the idea of creating markets for their produce at a time when most farmers are failing to access markets.

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A target of 126 975 farmers from the country’s three provinces, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central and Midlands has been set to kick start the programme.

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In Manicaland targeted farmers would be from three districts namely Mutare, Makoni, and Mutasa while in Mashonaland Central those from Mt Darwin and Guruve are set to benefit with Midlands having identified farmers from Kwe Kwe, Gokwe South and Shurugwi districts.

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These provinces were selected based on their poverty status and structural impediments.

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The programme whose two major focuses would be agricultural productivity and nutritional as well as markets development for the smallholder farmers would be managed by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and GRM International in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development among other partners.

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Officially launching the programme in Harare today (Thursday) Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Dr Joseph Made who was represented by his deputy Cde Paddy Zhanda said government appreciated the assistance from DFID which as it came at a time the country’s agricultural sector was facing several challenges that included the cost of finance whose structured nature was prohibitive to borrowing, low productivity due to climate change as well as failure in accessing markets.

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Cde Made said the funding had come at the right time when the Zimbabwe Government under its Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET) had identified food security and nutrition as a priority cluster.

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He said the government’s commitment to this area had been demonstrated through the setting up of multi-sectoral coordination and implementation structures at all administrative levels to ensure a cohesive response to food and nutrition issues.

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Dr Made said Zimbabwe was aiming at producing adequate food for its population and enough raw materials to service the manufacturing sector.

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“The Zimbabwe agricultural sector’s changed landscape requires a new and more robust package of technologies for extension, mechanisation and value addition with a need to increase the level of investment through deliberately targeting programmes to empower all those participating in agriculture and to critical support services such as research and extension,’ he said.

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He said the launch of the programme was a welcome move as it was going to promote rural finance to ensure that the farmers had access to financial services and particularly to support productive activities.

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He said the success of the agriculture sector was anchored on the adequacy of financing arrangements.

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“I would be looking forward to be appraised on the development of specific, achievable and targeted strategies that guide the component,’’ he said.

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On marketing farm produce, D Made said the constraints facing smallholder farmers in accessing input and output markets were well known and documented. These include lack of capital, poor organisational skills, lack of negotiating capacity, low productivity and ultimate production which resulted in lack of economies of scale for both farmers and buyers.

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To avert these challenges, government had promoted contract farming to leverage on pre-financing of production by value chain actors and ensuring a ready market for products.

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He said as government it would ensure full support to the programme to ensure attainment of results by facilitating a conducive environment.

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“The livelihoods and Food Security Programme partners should ensure that the programme develops sustainable systems through working with existing structures. These interventions should meet the increasingly diverse needs for our farmers, small and medium enterprises and other value chain actors,’’ he said.

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Speaking at the same occasion Britain ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing said the launch of the programme was a clear sign of an improved relation between Britain and Zimbabwe.

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“We are looking forward to work for a common goal. If Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector progresses, Britain’ will also benefit,’’ she said.

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Head of DFID in Zimbabwe Annabel Gerry said DFID’s goal in Zimbabwe was to eradicate extreme poverty. As one of the largest bilateral donors to Zimbabwe, where it intends to spending $116 million this financial year, the UK was working to deliver a more democratic, stable and prosperous Zimbabwe by focusing on helping the country’s poorest.

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“We believe a prosperous Zimbabwe is best supported by fostering inclusive economic growth that creates employment across society so that as many people benefit as possible,’’ she said.

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She said DFID for many years in conjunction with its implementing partners in the agricultural sector had been protecting vulnerable Zimbabweans from worst effects of chronic food insecurity through short term humanitarian programmes.

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She said instead of dealing with the effect of food insecurity, the livelihoods and Food Security programme would seek to address the underlying causes of food insecurity for the rural poor in a long term and sustainable manner.

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“This programme will also help farmers to increase productivity through provision of extension and advisory services, access to affordable financial services and through linking farmers to viable markets where they can get a good price for their produce,’’ she said.

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The programme designed to improve the livelihoods and food security of people living in rural areas by kick starting the rural economy is aimed at addressing several challenges those smallholder farmers, particularly women and youth are facing in raising the productivity of their farms and participating in markets.

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It also aims at ensuring food incomes for farmers and their families, increase long term profit, linking them to markets as well as increase production and consumption of different forms of food to ensure a balanced diet and prevent malnutrition.

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Beneficiaries would be expected to form groups in their respective districts where funding would be released to kick start production on the farms.

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