SA’s boost for Zim farmers

The South African government has earmarked R300-million in the foreign affairs budget vote to assist Zimbabwe’s struggling agricultural sector.

The amount has been allocated for “the recapitalisation of the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund for agricultural inputs for Zimbabwe”, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said. The money is “subject to acceptance of an appropriate role for international food relief agencies by a recognised multi-party government”.

While former president Thabo Mbeki was in meetings last week to break the impasse between feuding protagonists Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, South African officials met the heads of key Zimbabwean agriculture agencies as part of a regional drive to save the country’s farming season.

Last month the South African government established a task team — comprising foreign affairs, finance and agriculture officials — to help with Zimbabwe’s immediate needs. The team held meetings with key figures in Zimbabwe’s agriculture ministry — agriculture secretary Ngoni Masoka, Douglas Nyikayaramba, an army officer who heads an input allocation programme, and Stuart Hargreaves, head of the country’s veterinary services.

It is not only South Africa that is stepping in to save Zimbabwe. The country’s Agriculture Minister, Rugare Gumbo, confirmed this week that the Southern African Development Community and the African Union have asked his government to specify its needs for the farming season.

Brazil is also at hand to help. Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was in the region last week, sent Foreign Minister Celso Amorim to Harare to hold discussions with Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara. Amorim said Brazil had “pledged cooperation with a new government on areas such as agriculture and energy”. Investment would increase with a return to stability.

Trevor Gifford of the Commercial Farmers’ Union said the country has produced maize seed to plant about 40 000ha, compared with the one million hectares that should be put under maize to meet national needs.

As Zimbabwe’s economy deteriorates, peasant farmers resettled on formerly white land are being asked to pay up to US$40 for a 10kg bag of seed.

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