Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is about to finalise its action plan for Zimbabwe for the next three years and will hear from the beneficiaries on how best they can be assisted. This was said by the visiting IFAD president Mr Gilbert Houngbo in an interview after paying a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa offices.
Mr Houngbo was accompanied by Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri and United Nations Resident Coordinator Mr Bishow Parajuli and officials from IFAD among other officials.
He said his organisation will not dictate to Zimbabwe, but will get input from the beneficiary country.
“It is important to also get his (President Mnangagwa) advice and what we have been receiving from our meeting yesterday (Monday) with Government officials, civil society and other financial institutions and the UN colleagues.
“I do not want to jump the gun now because the real action we want to do will be the outcome of the dialogue because it is important for us the international development community not to impose an agenda on the country. It has to be a nationally owned agenda by Zimbabwe through Government.
“We should listen to the small- holder farmers where there are challenges and lift them out of poverty,” he said.
He said IFAD was currently investing in smallholder irrigation which was helping farmers have two to three cycles per year and increase productivity to boost their income and improve their livelihoods.
He said value addition was also an important intervention for smallholder farmers as it would double productivity as well as income, which was the major focus for IFAD.
“We had a meeting with his Excellency President Mnangagwa and I used the opportunity to brief him on the outcome of our visit since we arrived on Sunday and on the operations of IFAD together with the other colleagues from the UN system to ensure our activities are well co-ordinated and particularly for our case as IFAD on the rural transformation.
“We also briefed him about todays’ visit to Mutoko. Not only do we want to develop the rural areas, but how we can use agriculture as an entry point, using the comparative advantage that Zimbabwe has and to encourage the youth employment in agriculture,” he said.
Mr Houngbo expressed concern over the lack of irrigation facilities in Africa.
“The lack of irrigation in Africa in general is one of the endemic problems we have. On average in Africa we have about 5 percent of our arable land compared to 41 percent in Asia,” he said.
He said it was important that smallholder farmers have the capacity to increase the area under irrigation from 0,5 hectare to 1,25 hectares to alleviate poverty and create wealth.
“There is also need for affordable technology and access to regional international markets,” he said.
Minister Shiri said IFAD focused on transforming rural communities through various programmes and they had come to strengthen cooperation between the organisation and Zimbabwe.
“In the past we have greatly benefited from their support which has come in various forms and we believe their presence here will go a long way in benefiting our communities especially those in marginal areas,” he said.
He said Government had come up with several initiatives to boost land under irrigation.
Minister Shiri said Zimbabwe had the capacity to have two million hectares under irrigation and was working towards achieving that over the next years.
“If we rehabilitate some irrigation schemes we can increase capacity. Some dams are being rehabilitated and will be complete soon. Boreholes are being sunk and for the next 10 years we will be developing 200 hectares per district,” he said.
Mr Parajuli said irrigation would reduce the number of people who needed food assistance in times of drought.
“Farmers with irrigation say they have improved their livelihoods, bought property and managed to send their children to school. They do not want to take a job because they are getting good income from farming.
“Our aim is with support from IFAD and others to increase area under irrigation to have better nutrition and food security,” he said.
IFAD is supporting a new Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP), which started in January 2018 at a cost of US$51,23 million.
Since 1983, IFAD has financed six rural development programmes and projects in Zimbabwe at a total cost of US$266,9 million, with an IFAD investment of $95,6 million.
These programmes and projects have directly benefited 1 168 000 rural households in Zimbabwe.