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The year of rural economic renaissance

Stephen Mpofu Correspondent
With the much talked about devolution set to roar into action, 2019 should rightly go down in the annals of development in Zimbabwe as the year of rural renaissance.

That should be so because if the deafening rhetoric about rural economic transformation that has long filled everyone’s ears does go down into action, this will mark a giant step forward in reviving the largely dour lives of this country’s rural population by giving the people out there fresh new hopes about the benefits of independence from racist, colonial rule by those without knees who treated blacks as second class citizens.

In fact, the “periphery”, or the “sticks” — as colonial rulers and others pejoratively described rural areas — have since April 1980 longed for brave new transformative moves for dwellers out there but it has seemed a long, long wait for a brave new future for the majority to come about, while in urban areas, the citadels of colonial rule, grew by leaps and bounds, thanks to the sweat and food supplied from rural areas.

Now, however, with the deputisation of central government power to rural authorities, Zimbabweans may rightly welcome devolution by saying: “better late than never.”

Which goes down as a challenge to the Government of the day to pull all stops in implementing the economic transformation programme, whatever contestants of its political or democratic legitimacy may rant about to try to retain the faith and confidence of the political opposition — something that remains common in many other countries around the globe but which should be dismissed by those in power as a psychological disorientation strategy meant to confuse those in power at any given time.

These columns have previously highlighted some of the features of devolution people should expect to see getting under way, namely improvement to rural infrastructure such as roads and bridges; dip tanks for livestock; homesteads themselves; schools as well as the construction of more dams for irrigation purposes under Command Agriculture.

The Ministry of Primary and Rural Education said it would this week start recruiting 3 000 teachers to improve the teacher-pupil ratio in schools in a bid to better the quality of education.

According to some teachers, that ratio stands at present at around 50 pupils to a single teacher when, they say, 40 pupils under one teacher should be the ideal ratio.

The Government also plans to roll out information communication technology to schools in rural areas this year.

However, one schoolteacher who preferred to remain unnamed “for professional reasons”, wondered how the ICT programme would succeed without effective rural electrification for all the schools to benefit from the innovative skill.

Otherwise, he said, the move would be like placing the cart before the horses.

Devolution should also see a huge clampdown on deforestation in rural areas for purposes of clearing land for agriculture, for instance, or for firewood to sell in urban areas.

The common consequential result of deforestation is desertification and droughts once trees that draw rainfall have been cleared.

Little recognised, however, is that when forests are destroyed, trees and other plants producing fruits that bear medicinal properties become extinct to people’s detriment.

Devolution should therefore ensure the preservation of forest covers as well as plants for the benefit of people and animals.

The urban drift by a rural folk in search of jobs is and has long been a worrying phenomenon in so far as it deprives rural areas of much-needed labour while congesting towns and cities and their infrastructure with crime a common feature, as anyone should know.

Colonialists drew blacks from the poor countryside to offer cheap labour to urban centres which were the growth points for the colonial settlers.

But now, with the challenges that these urban centres face — fewer jobs, fuel shortages, inflation and other inherent economic hardships — Zimbabweans are having to cross borders in search of greener pastures that however turnout for many to be slave conditions under which they work in other countries with some of them becoming involved in criminal activities that render them lawless even when back home in their native country.

To reduce the flight of young energetic Zimbabweans to urban centres at home and abroad, devolution should make growth points dotted around the country play out the expectations that they portend as development zones.

Right now many if not most of the growth points are wind-swept places with noisy juke boxes in bottle stores dishing out music that help in the decay people’s morals, instead of these places becoming thriving businesses centres that create jobs for rural dwellers.

Devolution should create its own heroes of economic transformation to be counted among liberation heroes in order for Zimbabwe to attain the status of a developed nation and becoming the envy of other nations on the African continent and elsewhere.

source: the herald

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