Harare - Global financier, the World Bank, has pledged to scale-up its technical support for Zimbabwe’s agriculture as part of plans to transform development of the sector, which is the backbone of the Southern African country’s economy.
Zimbabwe currently does not qualify to borrow from the World Bank but the Bretton Woods institution has a programme to support Harare through technical aid and trust funds.
The main trust fund supported by the World Bank is the Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund (ZIMREF), a country-specific multi-donor approved programme for an initial five years from 2014 to December 2019.
At a conference held in Harare recently under the auspices of ZIMREF,the World Bank’s country manager for Zimbabwe, Rosemary Mukami Kariuki, said the international financier would augment its support to
Zimbabwe in the key sectors of the economy.
She said up to 70 percent of Zimbabwe's workers are employed in agriculture or related sectors.
“The World Bank considers agriculture as a key sector for future development and social transformation. As close to 70% of the working population in Zimbabwe is engaged in agriculture or related jobs, we look forward to enhancing our support to agricultural development in the country, through knowledge and technical support,” she said.
Permanent secretary for the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Ringson Chitsiko said Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector was on the path to transformation and World Bank's support would assist in boosting productivity.
“The Ministry is pleased to engage with the World Bank and other stakeholders in a constructive discussion on the transformation of Zimbabwe’s agriculture which will help define the key variables to transforming the sector towards improved productivity and production.
There is a lot to be done,” he said during the conference.
According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe receives assistance on recipient-executed, bank-executed and hybrid projects.
The four areas for support are private sector productivity and competitiveness; governance, efficiency and effectiveness of public expenditure; strengthening livelihoods and resilience; and analytical and advisory work. To date projects worth more than $60 million were approved.
The goal of ZIMREF is to contribute to the strengthening of Zimbabwe’s systems for reconstruction and development with a focus on stabilization and reform, development and poverty alleviation.
Other plinths under ZIMREF included adaptation to climate change, management of land and water resources, improvements to enable the environment for agribusinesses, enhancement of policy efficiency as well as access to finance and markets to smallholder farmers.
Donors to ZIMREF include Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Norway, the State and Peace Building Fund, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Before 2000, Zimbabwe was known as the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa. During that period, agriculture accounted for between 9-15% of the gross domestic product (GDP), and between 20-33% of export earnings.
Additionally, agriculture contributed over 60% of raw materials to agro-industries, with more than 70% Zimbabweans deriving their livelihoods from the sector.
In his inauguration speech last November, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said “our economic policy will be predicated on our agriculture which is the mainstay…” as he articulated the plan for the country to regain regional breadbasket status.
President Mnangagwa has on a number of occasions said Zimbabweans will not go hungry owing to comprehensive measures being instituted by his
Government to produce enough for local consumption and import substitution.
A flaship of Zimbabwe's agriculture in the past two years has been Command Agriculture, a model designed to ramp-up production through Government and private sector support to farmers.