By Daniel Nemukuyu
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) president Mr Gilbert Houngbo yesterday arrived in Zimbabwe for a series of meetings with President Mnangagwa and other senior Government officials to discuss agricultural investments to improve food security and alleviating poverty.
The high-level meetings, scheduled for a period stretching from today to Wednesday, come at a time when Southern Africa is facing an El Niño-induced drought.
Zimbabwe, among other countries in the region, is bracing for another season of normal to below-normal rainfall following a regional forecast announced in August this year.
The forecast, according to the Natural Resources Directorate at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, Domingos Gove, was that the 2018-19 rainfall season could be affected by the El Niño phenomenon, which is usually associated with droughts in the region.
In an interview, Mr Houngbo said the three-day visit would also focus on crafting ways of creating employment opportunities for the youth in rural communities.
“We are here in the context of our new programming that naturally calls for discussions with the authorities from Government and development partners in conjunction with the programme that we intend to put together next year for three years,” he said.
“As you know, IFAD is contributing to the Government into the development challenges, particularly related to smallholder farmers. We hope in the coming month our team will be preparing our strategic development document for the next three to five years.
“For us to be able to finalise that, as you can understand, it is important to meet different ministries, making sure we discuss the priorities, particularly the importance of food security, challenges we have in productivity which call for different types of interventions, access to the market, El Niño, and the importance of climate change’s impact on agriculture.
Mr Houngbo said the programme will focus on the empowerment of women in the rural areas. He will meet with Minister Shiri, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya this morning.
After lunch, he will meet President Mnangagwa at State House. There will be a cocktail hosted by the United Nations (Zimbabwe) in the evening.
Mr Houngbo will also visit the IFAD-supported Smallholder Irrigation Support Programme and meet with project participants to see first-hand how their lives have been impacted.
To address the problem and improve food and nutrition security, as well as reduce poverty, IFAD is supporting a new Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP), which started in January 2018.
SIRP will revitalise 6 100 hectares in 152 existing smallholder irrigation schemes and benefit 148 750 smallholder farmers in the provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland South and Midlands.
Since 1983, IFAD has financed six rural development programmes and projects in Zimbabwe at a total cost of US$266,9 million, with an IFAD investment of $95,6 million.
These programmes and projects have directly benefited 1 168 000 rural households in Zimbabwe.