Ex­pe­dite com­pen­sat­ing white com­mer­cial farm­ers: Govt urged

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Lloyd Gumbo Harare Bureau

STAKE­HOLD­ERS in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor have im­plored Gov­ern­ment to ex­pe­dite com­pen­sa­tion of white com­mer­cial farm­ers in or­der to un­lock fund­ing.

Farmer or­gan­i­sa­tions who at­tended a pub­lic hear­ing on the Land Com­mis­sion Bill be­fore a joint meet­ing of the Parliamentary Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee on Agri­cul­ture, Mech­a­ni­sa­tion and Ir­ri­ga­tion De­vel­op­ment and the Se­nate The­matic Com­mit­tee on Peace and Se­cu­rity in Harare yes­ter­day, said the coun­try’s agri­cul­ture was con­strained due to lack of fund­ing.

Zanu-MP for Muzara­bani South, Cde Christopher Chitindi and Mashona­land Cen­tral Se­na­tor, Cde Damian Mumvuri chair the com­mit­tees, re­spec­tively.

Zim­babwe Com­mer­cial Farm­ers Union di­rec­tor, Mr Jeremiah Tev­era, said land re­form ben­e­fi­cia­ries could do more with the right poli­cies in place.

“We are proud that the Gov­ern­ment is now pur­su­ing com­pen­sa­tion for the white for­mer farm own­ers,” he said.

“We would like, as a union, to sub­mit that the ex­pe­dited com­pen­sa­tion of the for­mer farm­ers will also pave way for un­lock­ing the value of the land and also make farm­ing eas­ier or an at­trac­tive way of life for the ma­jor­ity of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

“Cur­rently, the bulk of our mem­bers can­not ac­cess fi­nances. Lo­cally, they are very ex­or­bi­tant be­cause of high in­ter­est rates.

“Re­cently, Gov­ern­ment pro­nounced that we should par­tic­i­pate in pri­vate-pub­lic-part­ner­ships. The ma­jor­ity of part­ners who would like to par­tic­i­pate in these joint ven­tures are tar­get­ing land, which they say is un­der no dis­pute. Every­body who is a ben­e­fi­ciary of the land un­der the fast track land re­form pro­gramme is said to be on dis­puted land, hence they can­not par­tic­i­pate in the PPPs.”

Mr Tev­era said it was there­fore im­por­tant for farm­ers to ac­cess cheap loans if they were to make a mark in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

“By ad­dress­ing the com­pen­sa­tion is­sues, we want that tag of dis­puted land to be re­moved. That is one way we have iden­ti­fied that will re­move that tag. Farm­ers will be able to ac­cess fi­nances and in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, which are also in­ter­ested in in­vest­ing in Zim­bab­wean agri­cul­ture, will also not put a risk fac­tor on the money that they chan­nel to­wards Zim­babwe. Now if you want to ac­cess a loan from these in­ter­na­tional fi­nanciers, they talk of coun­try risk is­sues,” said Mr Tev­era.

Com­mer­cial Farm­ers Union of Zim­babwe deputy di­rec­tor, Mr Marc Wil­son, said all farm­ers wanted to im­prove agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity in the coun­try for do­mes­tic use and ex­ports, but said it was im­por­tant to ad­min­is­ter the land so that it can be pro­duc­tive.

“What we need now more than ever be­fore per­haps, is se­ri­ous for­eign di­rect and lo­cal in­vestor con­fi­dence into agri­cul­ture.

“It is with great grat­i­tude that we thank Gov­ern­ment for putting in place the Land Com­mis­sion, and we have high hopes that the out­stand­ing is­sues of se­cu­rity of ten­ure in re­la­tion to land and in­vestor con­fi­dence in agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion will be dealt with. We are se­verely con­strained by the in­abil­ity to ac­cess af­ford­able fi­nance, and we can­not com­pete with other farm­ers and other coun­tries to pro­duce low cost food for the na­tion and for ex­ports. If we can­not pro­duce at lower cost, we will not com­pete with oth­ers,” he said.

Wildlife and En­vi­ron­ment Zim­babwe pres­i­dent, Mr Isaiah Nyakusendwa, said it was im­por­tant to pri­ori­tise en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment while con­duct­ing agri­cul­ture.

“There is in­creased hu­man and wildlife con­flict that is hap­pen­ing as a re­sult of the land re­form. If you look at Mid­lands con­ser­vancy, we now have com­mer­cial farm­ing within a con­ser­vancy where an­i­mals used to roam freely.

“You also have farm­ers draw­ing wa­ter from Se­bakwe Dam and the wa­ter lev­els have gone down. There is also min­ing in the con­ser­vancy it­self. So all those ac­tiv­i­ties are now bring­ing chal­lenges that never ex­isted in­clud­ing in­creased poach­ing. We are in­formed that poach­ers are now armed and af­ford lawyers when they are caught,” said Mr Nyakusendwa.

Jour­nal­ists jos­tle to take pic­tures of Dou­glas Mahiya out­side Rot­ten Row mag­is­trates’ court in Harare yes­ter­day

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