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As Zimbabwe’s economy continues its remarkable recovery following almost a decade of recession, FAO is helping the country’s most vulnerable people to produce more food, access new markets and expand into new agricultural enterprises. With about 70 percent of the rural population relying on agriculture for their food and incomes, unexpected crises in the sector – like erratic rainfall during the agricultural season or sudden rises in food or input prices – could threaten the country’s transition to development. By supporting sustainable production technologies to raise farmers’ yields, facilitating greater access to markets and monitoring the food security situation, FAO plays a key role in supporting Zimbabwe’s recovery.
Increasing yields through sustainable production
Dry spells and erratic rains in late 2011/early 2012 caused a drop of 32 percent in national cereal production. Southern areas of Zimbabwe were particularly hard hit, with dry spells predicted to also affect production in 2013. Such recurrent crises have eroded the livelihoods of some of Zimbabwe’s poorest people, leaving them even more vulnerable to a future crisis. An estimated 1.2 million people were food insecure in October 2012, with this projected to rise further to 1.67 million people during the January to March 2013 lean season, when food stocks start to run out. Adopting more climate-smart and sustainable cropping practices, such as conservation agriculture, could help boost farm productivity and profitability. FAO is spearheading the promotion of conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe through different training techniques like farmer field schools and lead farmers, and building national extension capacity.
Exploring innovative approaches
Good quality inputs are essential to production. During Zimbabwe’s recession, seeds, fertilizers and other inputs became scarce and expensive. FAO Zimbabwe has been working with the government and other partners to test better ways to help farmers access inputs. One example of this is the use of electronic vouchers. By using “e-vouchers”, FAO is giving farmers the choice of inputs they need, while helping to rebuilding input markets and agrodealer networks across Zimbabwe. At the same time, farmers are required to contribute part of the costs of the e-vouchers, encouraging them to invest their own resources in their futures.
Linking farmers to markets
Farmers’ long-term food security depends on them moving towards more market-based production. By facilitating contract farming arrangements between farmers and private companies, FAO Zimbabwe is helping smaller farmers to access quality inputs and guaranteed markets for their produce, moving them toward more commercial production. With training and strong extension support from the government and FAO Zimbabwe, farmers are raising their yields and increasing their incomes. Families are also being encouraged to explore new enterprises, like commercial egg production or rearing small animals (chickens or pigs) for sale.
Information and coordination
Timely, accurate and reliable information are critical for building food security. FAO works with national and local authorities in undertaking national surveys that underpin planning and decision-making for food security. FAO also chairs the Agriculture Coordination Working Group – an important forum for the Government, donors, United Nations agencies, Non-governmental Organizations, the private sector and research institutes to coordinate efforts to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable farming families.