Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Of food security and poverty alleviation

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Of food security and poverty alleviation


The Chronicle 1/11/2018

EDITOR — One of the major aspirations of Vision 2030 is that of food security and poverty alleviation.

Our belief must first be that hunger in our country is not inevitable and malnutrition is not a consequence of food scarcity, but a result of the way our economy has been organised and of the political choices we have made to address or ignore the causes of hunger and poverty.

The new political leadership is now very aware that without addressing these critical issues they will have failed to keep their promise.

Amartya Sen (1999) in his book Development as Freedom defines hunger by saying that “Hunger relates not only to food production and agricultural expansion, but also to the functioning of the entire economy. It includes the operation of the political and social arrangements that can, directly or indirectly, influence people’s ability to acquire food and to achieve health and nourishment.”

This is very important because we continue to define hunger as lack of food only which is incorrect. The idea of poverty alleviation therefore must therefore be an all-encompassing approach which seeks to address everything that demeans the quality of our lives in Zimbabwe.

We must create a new narrative which says that – “In Zimbabwe, we can grow enough food, we have done it before, we have the skills and the necessary land and water resources, we know enough about agricultural economics, and we can afford to provide the basic needs that protect every person’s entitlement to an adequate, nutritious diet.”

Seventy-five percent of Zimbabweans rely directly or indirectly on agriculture. It is therefore fact that the majority of the poor are rural and survive mostly on smallholder agriculture. An increase in agricultural income is the most direct way out of poverty for most Zimbabweans but added to that must be the creation of safety nets and access to all the basic needs that make life worthwhile to live.

A successful agricultural recovery can also drive recovery of industry where 60 percent of industrial input comes from the agricultural sector. This can help to create jobs thus improve disposable incomes and have a positive impact to also reduce urban poverty.

The Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) produced a comprehensive report in 2010 on reconstructing Zimbabwe and it advises the following:

First we need political stability and a democratic government and governance system, backed up by political will. The most important precondition for any economic recovery programme is the political will of government to create a conducive operational environment for both state and non-state actors. This is in line with President Mnangagwa’s stated intentions.

Second, we require human and institutional capacity implying effective implementation of efficient, sustainable and recovery programmes. Zimbabwe has experienced a significant brain drain of skilled manpower over the last decade as the economy thus weakening the state’s capacity.

As a result we are relying too much on international development partners to deal with this sector. We need to develop own capacity and resource base over time so that we set the agenda ourselves. The recently announced Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) is a good start.

Third, we must establish country-owned macro and sectoral policies which are consistent, well thought out and inclusive. Our provinces must take responsibility for their own development agendas especially food security and poverty alleviation. Devolution of economic authority and power will require our Provincial governments to not only have parallel plans in line with the TSP but the necessary skills and capital budgets in order to implement effectively.

In my opinion each province must have own five-year development plans which take into account their asset base, competitive advantage and geography.

Fourth, we must adopt a broad approach to poverty alleviation that highlights the integration of agricultural and industrial policies. We must industrialise around agriculture output and create a symbiotic relationship between farmers and industry.

Fifth is that yes, we need aid, but that aid must be well-organised, long-term and matched by and aligned with our developmental strategies. Any humanitarian aid has to be combined with a developmental approach, requiring technical assistance, budget support and an unconstrained private sector.
(We must stop treating NGOs as enemies of the state and their policies and efforts must be aligned to the big agenda.)

Next I think is that we must all understand what poverty is, it is not just about food, but encompasses the lack of the provision of all basic needs and safety nets to the vulnerable. It must, therefore, be tackled in a holistic manner including the eradication of the psychology of dependence on central government.

Poverty is, therefore, more than just a physiological phenomenon denoting a lack of basic necessities like food, health, shelter and clothing, but also a state of deprivation and powerlessness, where the poor are exploited and denied participation in decision-making in matters that intimately affect them.

In addition, we ought to achieve food security for all so that we are not vulnerable to the whims of international food aid organisations. Food security is defined by the FAO as the availability, access, utilisation and stability of food. This requires that;

1. Families and individuals have a reliable and consistent source of quality food, as well as sufficient resources to purchase it.

2. People must also have the knowledge and basic sanitary conditions to choose, prepare, and distribute food in a way that results in good nutrition for all family members.

3. Finally, the ability to access and utilise food must remain stable and sustained over time.

There is also the term of food sovereignty, where countries must be free to choose how and to what extent they engage in trade to meet their domestic food needs, and how and in what ways to support domestic food production.

This will be critical to achieve Vision 2030. The creation of a middle income economy must create better incomes and inclusive development which includes addressing the needs of the marginalised so that they may be part and parcel of development and growth. In addition, the achievement of increased agricultural productivity naturally assumes that reduction of food imports and the achievement of food self-sufficiency and therefore food sovereignty.

In conclusion there is no doubt that we now require new policies which give impetus to reconstruction to Zimbabwe and make a decisive contribution to the revival of the whole economy, renewal of urban and rural infrastructure, the modernisation of our industrial base, the resumption of normal production, the raising of productivity creating employment, and the facilitating of intra-regional trade. By achieving that we will be well placed to address the challenges of food security and poverty alleviation.

Zimbabwe will rise!
Vince Musewe

Vince Musewe is an economist and a development policy advisor. You may contact him on [email protected]


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