The European Union and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), in cooperation with the Government of Zimbabwe, have launched a four-year programme to promote commercial agriculture among the country’s poor smallholder farmers. The focus of this programme will be to introduce integrated farming methods particularly focusing on on irrigation and livestock production support. The programme has a budget of $19 million.
The programme’s targets include providing functioning irrigation facilities to an extra 1,000 hectares of land - at present only 61 percent (10,000 hectares) of Zimbabwean land is adequately equipped. Specifically the programme will target 20 irrigation schemes in the provinces of Manicaland and Matabeleland South, with a view to benefiting the lives of 36,000 people in total.
Another target is to provide support for 40,000 of the poorest livestock famers in the districts of Nkayi and Lupane, as well as in Matabeleland North Province. These farmers operate mixed livestock farms in areas which suffer from the effects of low rainfall, frequent dry spells and widespread crop failure.
“This partnership between the Government of Zimbabwe, the EU and FAO is a reaffirmation of the commitment and dedication of all the three players in ensuring a food-secure Zimbabwe,” said David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Country Representative in Zimbabwe in a statement. “Globally, the EU is FAO’s largest resource partner, and in Zimbabwe we have already partnered on a number of projects.”
Existing schemes designed to help smallholders in Zimbabwe have generally not been successful as a result of technical and financial problems. The need for basic agricultural infrastructure is increasingly urgent; one of the provinces targeted by the scheme, Matabeleland North, has the highest poverty rate in Zimbabwe.