The fund, launched in Harare on Thursday, will be used to support conservation agriculture across Zimbabwe. It will run for three years from 2010 to 2012. It targets mostly those farmers who do not have enough income to purchase fertiliser and seed, and do not have draught power or tillage equipment.
Activities supported through the fund will be coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the government, while non-governmental organisations, farmers unions and community groups will be active at the implementation stage.
In a speech read on his behalf, Head of the EU Delegation in Zimbabwe Xavier Marchal said “the stabilisation and eventual rehabilitation” of the agriculture was a crucial part of Zimbabwe’s economic revival.
“This new project is part of the EU policy aiming at movivng this country from Food Aid to Food Security, helping to build self-reliance at smallholder level,” said Marchal.
“Agriculture is a critical dimension of economic recovery, and moving away from a narrow humanitarian perspective, reviving agricultural production is central to rebuilding food and livelihood security, thereby helping avoid Zimbabwe’s dependence on large scale food importation.”
The EU’s Food Security Coordinator for Zimbabwe, Pierre-Luc Vanhaeverbeke, said the European bloc would continue supporting ordinary Zimbabweans, despite the existence of restrictive measures against the country’s ruling elite.
“This is an up-scaling of what we have been doing over the years in Zimbabwe, it is of direct benefit to the population of Zimbabwe. We are not going to abandon the population of Zimbabwe,” said Vanhaeverbeke.
The FAO representative for Zimbabwe, Gaoju Han said the fund will go a long way in improving agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe, which was almost grounded by the government’s chaotic land reform exercise.
“Under this new facility, FAO will work towards the improvement of agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe and to reduce the dependency of vulnerable communities on humanitarian assistance,” said Han.
The money will be used to purchase such inputs as fertiliser and seed, as well as supporting training of farmers and extension work.
“FAO will contribute to the production, analysis and dissemination of agricultural and food security information to the benefit of decision makers in the various fields of humanitarian, policy and private sectors,” added Han.
Although critics have blamed the government’s often violent land redistribution exercise for the collapse of agricultural output, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ngoni Masoka said their major challenge was lack of resources. He ducked questions on the volatile exercise, saying it fell under the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement.
“We need resources, issues of resources need to be addressed. In terms of planning we are always far ahead, but issues of resources are a major hindrance,” said Masoka.
Under its Global Food Security programme, the EU has contributed more than $170 million to agricultural development in Zimbabwe. The bloc also provides funding for agriculture, health, education, human rights and governance.