By Elita Chikwati
White commercial farmers who do not have land, but are willing to produce, are free to enter into joint ventures with resettled farmers to boost agricultural production and the economy, so the country can regain its status as the breadbasket of Africa.
This was said by Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri at a meeting with former white commercial farmers at Esbank Farm in Mazowe on Friday.
Government is engaging former commercial farmers who lost land during the land reform programme and those who are still on the land to listen to their concerns and address them.
Some of the issues raised by the former commercial farmers were the unbankability of the 99-year leases, high lending rates and that they lost their land but wanted to continue farming.
Minister Shiri said the former commercial farmers could also benefit from land resettlement if the land was available.
Minister Shiri said some farmers were underutilising land and Government was going to repossess the farms for redistribution to the landless regardless of colour or race.
“Land is a finite resource; unfortunately it is supposed to sustain a geometrically increasing population,” he said. “Therefore, for those white commercial farmers who cherish to undertake farming, but unfortunately do not have land you are at liberty to scout for partners to get into co-operative farming arrangements such as joint ventures and contract farming agreements.
“Government will, through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement endorse agreements with a view to safeguard the interests of both parties to the agreement. If we are to meet the ambitious and challenging goals set out by Government to use agriculture as the mainstay of the economy, it is pertinent to acknowledge that the person on the land is the farmer, the person to produce for the nation is the farmer and the person on whom the revival and growth of the economy is hinged on is once again the farmer,” he said.
He said it was critical that both white and black farmers work together to boost production and productivity.
“Therefore, the critical role and position which Zimbabwean farmers, both black and white, occupy on the socio-economic sphere of the country can never be over- emphasised. In that regard, it is mandatory that both back and white farmers work together in harmony towards formulating winning strategies to attain the breadbasket status which Zimbabwe used to occupy in the region.
“As the minister responsible for Land, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement I am glad to inform you that constitutionalism and adherence to the rule of law are now guiding principles in Zimbabwe. Please be advised that the current Government has zero tolerance to lawlessness and as such all our esteemed farmers are hereby given the assurances of the highest order that their investments are safe.
Minister Shiri said the white commercial farmers had vast experience in agriculture which would add value to the sector.
“We want to work with you the white commercial farmers considering your vast experience in the important field of commercial farming,” he said. “Government also acknowledges your renowned capacity and business networks towards tapping into regional and international markets for the country’s agricultural produce.
“Government is keen to engage you our valued white commercial farmers for offering the internships and attachments to the country’s various agricultural graduands and undergraduates. This would be vital for knowledge transfer purposes, resuscitation of horticulture and fruit plantations, partnering Government in the important areas.”