Tafadzwa Ndlovu Herald Reporter
Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) has launched a $72 million livelihoods and food security programme to increase incomes and reduce poverty among the poor in Zimbabwe.
The integrated programme will be implemented over four years and targets smallholder farming households in chronically food and nutrition insecure districts.
Speaking at the launch in Harare yesterday, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Catriona Laing said her country was willing to help Zimbabwe regain its breadbasket status.
She said the grant would address challenges faced by smallholder farmers and ensure that they had sufficient funds and access to markets.
“This programme will address challenges on limited finance, for instance when farmers cannot get credit or collateral for investment, information on market prices which is so critical to making good sales and enable linking farmers to markets and to encourage them to diversify, add value to their raw material,” said Ms Laing.
Recently, a UK trade delegation was in Zimbabwe to engage with the Government on applying expertise in project finance, infrastructure and development to support the implementation of Zim-Asset.
Ms Laing refused to field questions from reporters who wanted to get her thoughts on the role her country played in the decimation of the agricultural sector which she was now trying to revive.
She asked for questions to be emailed to her, but she had not responded by the time of going to press.
Britain was at the forefront of calling for sanctions on Zimbabwe after reneging on obligations to fund the land reform programme on November 5 1997.
The sanctions affected all facets of the economy, including the agricultural sector.
In fact, Zimbabwe’s low productivity levels in industries and agriculture can be partly blamed on Britain as sanctions resulted in the cutting of lines of credit and failure to procure spares for industrial machines most of which were imported from Western countries.
Speaking at the same occasion on behalf of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Cde Joseph Made, his deputy Cde Paddy Zhanda said there was need to increase the level of investment in agriculture to empower farmers.
“This programme is going to promote rural finance to ensure that rural farmers have access to financial services since the success of agriculture is anchored on adequate financing,” he said. “The Zimbabwean agricultural sector’s changed landscape requires a new and robust package of technologies for extension, mechanisation and value addition.”