By Alois Vinga
THE World Bank (WB) has urged Zimbabwe to abandon increased agricultural spending due to its failure to boost productivity in the past years.
The global financier is in favour of key recovery sources and policy reorientation.
Since the turn of the millennium, the country has sunk billions of dollars in foreign currency into the agricultural sector with the objective to increase productivity.
During the 2016-17 agricultural season alone, the government sunk around US$3 billion in its command agriculture scheme but owing to a number of weaknesses and leakages, the controversial programme did not realise the expected yields.
Speaking during a webinar on Investment Priorities for Climate-Smart Agriculture in Zimbabwe co-hosted by the WB, Finance and Lands ministries, World Bank Country Director, Mukami Kariuki urged the government to consider refocusing priorities in agriculture.
“As increased agriculture spending has not yielded greater productivity, key sources of recovery such as finance, policy and infrastructure need to be reoriented,” she said.
“With the threat of recurrent drought costing Zimbabwe about 7.3% of GDP every year, growing vulnerability is a concern.
“Restoring economic health through sustainable fiscal policy, alongside investments in markets, water access and improved technologies will have an enormous impact on the sector.”
The event also witnessed the launch of the Climate Smart Investment Plan (CSAIP) for Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector report and the Agriculture Public Expenditure Review provide evidence to inform agricultural policy decisions towards Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030.
Major findings of the CSAIP states that Zimbabwe remains highly dependent on climate, with a primarily rainfed, low technology production base, low adaptive capacity, and large seasonal climatic variability.
Furthermore, climate change is expected to negatively impact agricultural production.
The report notes that the 15-20% agriculture contribution of Zimbabwe to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will decline to a paltry 2 % if urgent measures are not taken.
It is also observed that Zimbabwe will be hotter and drier in future and under a changing climate, maize, the staple food crop in Zimbabwe, is expected to see a 33% yield reduction by the 2030s.
The increases in temperature are estimated to result in decreases in the income generated by beef cattle from 11-13% by 2040.
Also speaking at the event, Lands Minister, Anxious Masuka said addressing these foundational issues was necessary to move to a more productive, resilient and low emissions agriculture sector that benefits millions of farmers.
“Zimbabwe is already pursuing a selection of climate smart agriculture adaptations through Pfumvudza which includes Conservation Agriculture practices such as zero tillage, crop rotation and mulching. Improving the productivity of the sector goes hand in hand with creating an enabling environment in relation to poverty and gender issues, water access and land tenure security,” he said.