According to the Second Zimbabwe Crop and Livestock Assessment report and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the estimated corn production for 2021 is 2.7 million tons. This maize yield is estimated to triple the 2020 harvest. The agricultural sector is projected to grow 34% this year, more than three times the 11% projected in the budget delivered at the end of last year.
The International Monetary Fund reports that Zimbabwe is on track for economic recovery with a 6% growth forecast this year, largely due to the maize harvest.
Zimbabwe was the main destination for maize exports from neighboring South Africa in market year 2020/21. Of the 2.6 million tonnes of maize exported by South Africa, around 20% went to Zimbabwe.
In May this year, the Zimbabwe Agricultural Marketing Authority Announced a complete ban on corn imports, citing the bumper crop and expected surplus. The Zimbabwean government hopes to save some $ 300 million from the ban. The 2019/20 season was plagued by drought and the country passed US $ 298 million on corn imports.
This year’s bumper harvest is a positive development for Zimbabwe. But it is important to know what is behind this success and what challenges remain. Maize production stands out as a priority investment in Zimbabwe due to its strategic role in ensuring food security and serving as raw material for agro-industrial processes. The crop is grown by more than 90% of the country’s agricultural households and contributes 14% of the country’s agricultural gross domestic product.
The great production of the country has been mainly attributed favorable rains, supported by government programs that ensured that farmers had adequate inputs in time for the 2020/21 growing season.
The Zimbabwe Department of Meteorological Services records indicate that the country received normal to higher than normal rains during the past season. The production of corn and cereals by small farmers is predominantly in rainfed agriculture.
But the weather conditions cannot be controlled. Maintaining high yields in the long term will likely require investments in water harvesting interventions, as well as expanding irrigation systems. Improved irrigation can provide smallholders with resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.
Government collaborations with non-governmental organizations, donor agencies, and the private sector have resulted in several agricultural plans.
One of them is a scheme that focuses on the efficient use of resources (inputs and labor) in small plots of land. Known as Pfumvudza / Intwasa, it was widely promoted during the 2020/21 farming season. This concept of agriculture aims to provide food, nutrition and livelihood security at the household level.
The beneficiaries of the plan had to prepare their land in advance, in time for inputs and planting. This technique addresses many of the limiting factors of previous practices. For example, it requires less manpower.
The focus can be used in marginal areas. According to Zimbabwean agriculture second evaluation report, yields for small farmers who practiced this approach were 5.28 t / ha compared to 1.16 t / ha for farmers using conventional tillage. Expanding this technique to larger fields will require mechanization.
This and other government programs for small farmers can contribute to the sustainability and long-term growth of corn and grain production.
Large-scale farmers also benefited from the subsidized input command agriculture scheme. The scheme provided farmers with seeds, fertilizers, fuel and chemicals on loan. This may also have contributed to the overall production.
Zimbabwe launched an agriculture and food systems transformation strategy in 2020 with the goal of creating an agricultural sector worth US $ 8.2 billion by 2025. The strategy it relies on climate-smart technologies, extension services, and increased innovations. The government schemes mentioned above are aligned with this strategy.
But the critics have he pointed that the centralized input subsidy scheme (command agriculture) has some important gaps and is unsustainable. First introduced during the 2016/2017 agricultural season, the scheme is structured around debt, which was Estimate it will cost $ 214 million in 2018.
The system does not appear to have measures to monitor and evaluate the use of inputs during the season. It does not guarantee loan repayment or debt recovery from delinquent beneficiaries. In previous years there have been reports of some farmers who abuse inputs by selling them on the black market.
In 2017, of the 50,000 small commercial farmers that benefited from the maize input scheme, more than 10,000 reportedly Product was not delivered to the Grain Marketing Board as required. This is due in large part to the abuse of inputs and the board’s reputation for lengthy payment delays.
Some of the returns are not reaching the markets and food safety measures are not being applied. This requires a policy reviews.
This year’s success can be attributed to a combination of drivers. But to keep the momentum going, the Zimbabwean government is challenged to address the remaining gaps.
Talent N Ndlovu, Tofara W Sammie, Abigal Mangena, Thulani Ndlovu, and Brilliant Nkomo also contributed to this article.Eness Paidamoyo Mutsvangwa-Sammie, FSNet-Africa Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Pretoria