US$3b Command Agriculture Funding Fails To Revive Farming – World Bank

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By Staff Reporter

A NEW report published by the government and the World Bank shows that despite more public spending of billions of dollars in agriculture by the state, this has not translated into any meaningful productivity with over eight million Zimbabweans in need of food aid.

The report, Public Expenditure Review (PER) with a Focus on Agriculture, also warns that without climate-smart agriculture investment, Zimbabwe’s staple food crop – maize – is expected to result in a 33% yield reduction by 2030.

In 2017, the government launched the Command agriculture programme with US$3 billion injected to fund the scheme.

However, revelations of possible abuse of funds under the controversial scheme amid claims there are no records and accountability of how the funds were disbursed.

To curb future scenarios, the study calls on the government to strengthen security of the land tenure, enhance investment in infrastructure, agricultural knowledge and innovation.

“Despite an increase in public spending for agriculture, productivity has not improved in recent years,” the report notes.

It noted an increase in spending and investments in the agriculture sector to 5.7% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, up from around 1.1% between 2011 and 2015.

“Sparked by the government’s Command Agriculture programme designed to reverse the decline in agricultural productivity, public spending accounted for two-thirds of agricultural GDP and nearly a quarter of the budget in 2017, one of the highest levels by global standards.”

However, the report notes that despite the increase in spending, productivity has not improved in recent years, owing to a myriad of issues such as weakened tenure security that undermined access to credit, dilapidated infrastructure, and increased vulnerability to drought.

“Additionally, the external environment continues to deteriorate, and there is a reluctance by the private sector to finance agriculture, leaving no buffers to increase production and guarantee food security.

“The losses in agricultural productivity could be at the core of many of Zimbabwe’s macroeconomic challenges and there is a need to reverse the decline within a broader framework of macroeconomic reforms and private sector development,” said Stella Ilieva, the World Bank senior economist for Zimbabwe.

For sustainable government spending in agriculture, the report says aligning priorities with fundamental drivers of productivity is key. The PER recommends redirecting public spending from inputs and equipment, to agricultural research, extension and animal disease control, strengthening security of tenure and fostering skills and resilience.

It said the Climate-Smart Agriculture Investment Plan) CSAIP), which was recently launched alongside the PER, reveals that with the changing climate, maize – is expected to see a 33% yield reduction by 2030.

“Additionally, increases in temperature were estimated to result in decreases in the income generated from beef cattle by 11-13% by 2040. An increase in temperature is also linked with increased incidence and prevalence of livestock disease. Thus, without action to increase resilience, climate change will likely leave Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector in fast decline.”

Without action, the report warns that changes such as climate change and climate-related shocks will leave the sector in a fast decline.

The investment plan recommends that the Zimbabwe government climate-proof its agriculture sector and invest in climate–smart agriculture practices similar to the Pvumvudza conservation agriculture that it spearheads.