By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
31 March 2014
In a move that is likely to anger villagers the government has with immediate effect scrapped the free agricultural inputs handouts that were being issued to poor communal farmers, a minister has said.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Davis Marapira, told journalists in rural Masvingo last week that government will no longer be issuing free fertilizer and seed to the rural farmers. Marapira said this was done as a way to ‘end the dependency syndrome’ in the country. He added that government had realised that it was better to subsidise inputs for manufacturing companies than to issue free handouts to communal farmers.
The move comes at a time when the economy is on the decline and with rural folk struggling to provide for themselves. According to the UN at least 2.2 million people are in need of food aid, the majority being in rural areas.
At the same time the government owned Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe reported that it had posted a $ 9.2 million loss for the year ended December 2013. CEO Sam Malaba said only privatization could save the bank.
Godfrey Mtimba, who was amongst the journalists addressed by Marapira last Thursday, told SW Radio Africa that the government decision is likely to anger the villagers. He said: ‘The people are in genuine need and I am sure they will be both shocked and angered by this.’ Mtimba said the scribes were equally taken aback and bombarded the minister with questions asking where the government expected the villagers to get the money to buy inputs for themselves.
The government has been assisting farmers with inputs since 2000. Last year it introduced the $161 million input scheme with the aim of assisting poor communal farmers who could not afford the cost of inputs. The scheme has always been marred in controversy with reports of partisan distribution of inputs. President Mugabe also operates a similar but personal scheme. That scheme has not been spared controversy either.
The communal farmers are not the first to be abandoned as government announced last month that it was stopping assistance for the A2 farmers. Agriculture minister Joseph Made, told Parliament that the A2 farmers should not look forward to any assistance from government this year and should go and ‘kneel down’ in front of the banks.
The A2 farmers are larger scale farmers who were awarded the land seized from white commercial farmers under the land grab exercise. Despite the support given to the farmers crop production has remained low with most of the donated inputs reportedly abused, resold on the black market or exported to regional countries.