Audit reveals under-utilisation of church-run farms

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

AN audit report into the use of six commercial farms owned by the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Zimbabwe has unearthed massive under-utilisation at the farms located across the country.

The church is one of the largest religious institutions in the country and has vast properties across Zimbabwe.

These include farms, hospitals, clinics, training colleges and schools.

In June this year, the UMC undertook an audit which centred on production levels at six of its farms spread across the country.

The audit revealed that most of the land owned by the church was being under-utilised although the farms had the potential of being highly productive.

An audit is yet to be completed on other 10 farms that the church owns.

The purpose of the audit is look for opportunities to make agriculture profitable for the church and the country.

According to the report, one of the church’s farms in Murewa district, Mashonaland East, was being highly underused with only 882 hectares out of the 5 018 cleared hectares of the land, being utilised.

This translated to about five percent production. The reason for under-utilisation was attributed to lack of resources.

The other farms are also in the same state of dereliction. Most of the farms audited lie in Regions 2 and 3, making them suitable for intensive farming as they are in regions with high rainfall patterns.

Kudakwashe Mutyavaviri of SkyArt Investments, who led the audit, said the results showed the farms had vast potential if they were fully utilised.

“Zimbabwe was once dubbed the breadbasket of Africa, and starting with the UMC farms, we will be moving towards restoring this historic moment in our nation, provided we utilise the land through commercial productivity,” he said.

He urged the church to look at its shortfalls and address them.

“Look at the available opportunities and leverage on them to start something new in the UMC and in Zimbabwe at large. The church should start to act as soon as possible, look for partners, especially in financing the possible projects,” said Mutyavaviri.

The audit report noted there was an urgent need for the UMC to begin farming profitable crops and livestock, and acquiring additional funding and equipment to move towards commercialisation.

Zimbabwe is currently grappling with severe food shortages due to poor harvests during the 2018/2019 farming season. Over five million citizens are as a result, in need of urgent food aid from government and international donors.

The country has also not had any meaningful crop harvests since the start of the controversial land reform programme, which was spearheaded by the Zanu PF government in 2000.