LAST week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement permanent secretary John Basera said the days were numbered for unproductive farmers.
Although he did not say it directly, the insinuation of his statement was that those who were not productive were likely to lose their land.
He referred to A1 and A2 farmers, saying they have to submit productive reports to district offices with the help of agriculture extension officers.
Basera needs to be reminded that when the people of Zimbabwe went to war against the white settler regime, they were fighting for land to live on, and not necessarily to be productive on it.
It was never part of the contract that when the majority people get their land back from the white minority, they had to be productive on it.
Somewhere along the way the government changed the terms of reference to what is divorced from the pact our fathers made when they sacrificed their lives in the struggle of our independence.
Slowly, and surely we are going back to colonial times where people were overtaxed. The only difference now is that it is our brothers who are taxing us and, unfortunately, they are asking for our sweat, not our money.
The condition to keep the land seems now to be that farmers can stay on it only if they are producing for the state. Land is a basic right that must be given without any tying terms.
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These veiled threats, intimidation and arm-twisting on farmers must not be tolerated. It is surprising that farmers’ unions are quiet.
There is so much idle land around to give to those that want to be productive. They can show their prowess instead of keeping old and tired citizens on their toes so that they produce for the government.
The fact that the government is giving farmers agriculture inputs is no excuse to pressurise them to produce for the country, which has always been the role of the government through its various arms.
The government must learn to give without expecting anything in return. Non-governmental organisations do it all the time.
If the government is sincere about productivity on the farms, it must free the mass markets and stay out of it.
Farmers are always getting the nasty end of the stick when it comes to selling their maize to the Grain Marketing Board. Whilst they are forced to sell to the government entity, they are not paid on time, the prices are always lower than the open market rates and they always get their inputs late.
The same can be said of tobacco farmers, who have to spend cold nights in long and winding queues just to sell their produce. They are then paid part of their money in the local currency, whose value depreciates daily and is hit by inflation.
The tobacco is sold to China in United States dollars as the farmers trod back to their farms licking wounds and unable to pay huge salaries and transportation costs associated with the golden leaf production. They miss a season or two because of financial constraints, but the government still insists that they are not productive.
Cotton farmers are the worst affected.
The government is not doing enough to support them, but still wants them to sell their produce to Cottco.
Unfortunately, because they are centralised in the Gokwe area, the government stomps them and their cries fall on deaf ears.
In parting, Basera needs to be told that the government needs to offer incentives to entice people to produce more. All the government needs to do is to create a conducive environment for the farmers to thrive, which they will do.
There is a lot of money to be made in farming. The government needs to allow for market forces, even in agriculture.
- Gwabanayi is a practising journalist and a farmer in his own right. — 0772 865 703 or email@example.com