‘Ensure food security to avoid civil unrest’

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AN AGRICULTURAL expert says the government must ensure food security to avoid compromising national security and must deal harshly with parasitic side marketers fleecing farmers, the Daily News reports.
This comes as Zimbabwe is on a mission to end food imports and achieve food self-sufficiency and
achieve a US$8,2 billion agriculture industry by 2025.

Speaking on Friday at the unveiling of the second edition of the Zimbabwe AgriculturalSector Survey by the country
biggest business newspaper, The Financial Gazette, in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (Zas),

University of Zimbabwe senior lecturer Jacqueline Mutambara said there was need to improve food security,
reduce poverty, improve environmental sustainability and national security.

“When the stomach is hungry, this might cause civil unrest in the country. So, food security and national security to me are two things that work together,” Mutambara, an agriculture consultant, said.

“Another worrisome phenomenon is that of food insecurity. Year in year out we have our statistics
from ZimStats and Zimvac and they are worrying. I was just running through the figures, I think for the past five years the average figure of food insecure households is around 22 percent.

Food is a basic commodity. You cannot afford to compromise on how much of the basic commodity you need
to take.

“So, that’s why I was saying food insecurity is a national security threat. Those figures are worrisome because they need to be at zero percent for people to be enjoying a normal life in Zimbabwe,” Mutambara said.

“Contrary to this declining trend we have seen that human needs have been increasing…

You will agree with me that what it took to raise a child 10 years ago is not the same as what is needed today. The bread basket is revolving into other things that need to be met by our agricultural systems,” she added.

This comes as the World Food Programme Zimbabwe (WFP) recently appealed for US$250 million to boost food assistance in the country, warning that 8,6 million people will be facing starvation by December 2020.

Mutambara described side marketers as “parasitic” individuals posing a threat to the future of agriculture in the country.

“I have a very touching experience with farmers in Norton who told me that they are doing horticulture and they said they were doing very well. They, however, said their problem is that they cannot take their produce to town
because middlemen hijack the produce and dictate prices.

“This seemed to be a problem of the farmer, but it is a problem of policy. We have the Ministry of Agriculture and the police. I fail to understand why we cannot send the police to Mbare market to ensure that farmers are able to sell their produce without the interference of third parties.

“When farmers get to the market, their products are hijacked by middle men who dictate the price. These are parasitic actors trying to make big margins from people that have sweated and is that fair?

It’s a disincentive, you won’t see a future in production. So we also need to strengthen our policies in
terms of marketing,” Mutambara said.

Mutambara added that the other challenges facing farmers were lack of information and knowledge to improve production and productivity.

“I think in Zimbabwe we have confronted challenges that are as a result of unavailability of information. Without adequate information you cannot exercise your rationality as a farmer, as a bank or processor.

“We also see that lack of information or its asymmetrical nature by virtue of being in the hands of
others and not others actually creates the tendency of opportunistic behaviour. I think we have seen
that the demise of the cotton sector in Zimbabwe before the government came in with the command cotton was a result of uncertainty and side marketing,” she said.

She urged farmer unions to ensure that farmers had the latest information on trends, marketing, financial matters, and climate change to boost production.

“My heart bleeds for small holder farmers who are at the base of agricultural production in Zimbabwe. Do they have the capacity?

What policy amendment can we reinforce as we harness this information to ensure that farmers are
able to make use of this information?” Mutambara said.

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