Expedite compensating white commercial farmers: Govt urged
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