US envoy: Command Agriculture no answer to hunger

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By Alois Vinga

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa command agriculture scheme will not alleviate hunger in Zimbabwe due to systematic corruption, US ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols said on Tuesday.

The US diplomat was speaking to on the sidelines of a drought relief handover event by the US Agency for International Development.

“The agricultural policies being implemented by the Zimbabwean government are not allowing this nation to reach its full potential. In the 1990s, there was a deep drought in the region and all Southern African nations were fed by Zimbabwe but for now moving into 2018, this country requires food aid to feed half of its rural population,” said Nichols.

Government has blamed the crippling drought that hit the country last year for the current food shortages. Some 6 million Zimbabweans will need food aid this farming season with the figure expected to rise in the peak hunger season between January and March next year.

Nichols added: “You have seen stories about $3 billion which cannot be accounted for. In previous Command Agricultural programmes, there have been numerous allegations exposed by the Public Accounts Committee, spikes in exchange rates, all these things are related. So there is need for transparency market led agricultural policies.”

The US envoy said such a strategy will go a long way to provide higher incomes for farmers and return.

Nichols said the root causes of food insecurity and poverty must be tackled for Zimbabwe to end chronic food insecurity for good.

He urged the government to implement a market based agriculture policy and eradicate corruption in its subsidy programmes which severely exacerbate the very problems of food insecurity they are purportedly intended to cure.

Disclosures by the Auditor-General show that substantial amounts of money under the programme were looted, mostly by top government officials, derailing the initiative. This has left millions of vulnerable citizens at the mercy of hunger.

Government has since announced that it will splash an additional $2,8 billion to finance production of the staple crop, maize, as well as soya bean under a cumulative land area of 240 000 hectares.