As of April 2020, Zimbabwe had a population of 15,178,957: 7,289,922 (48%) male and 7,891,035 (52%) female spread over the 10 provinces of the country which are agriculture-friendly. A 2022 Zimbabwe Labor Force survey shows that 17.5% of people in Zimbabwe are employed in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; hence, future of Zimbabwe, albeit Africa lies in agriculture, practiced in a manner that benefits the farmers, the economy and the continent.
The Zimbabwe National Nutrition Survey 2018 agreed that malnutrition, in all its forms (including under nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight, and obesity), affects people’s health and well-being by: “Impacting negatively on human, physical and cognitive development; compromising the immune system; increasing susceptibility to communicable and non-communicable diseases; and restricting the attainment of human potential and reducing productivity.
“It also poses a high burden in the form of negative social and economic consequences to individuals, families, communities, and Zimbabwe at large. The factors leading to malnutrition are complex and multi-dimensional. These include poverty; lack of access to sufficient food which conforms with beliefs, culture, traditions and dietary preferences; poor infant and young child feeding and care practices.”
The Survey also agreed that “The elimination of malnutrition in all its forms is imperative for health, social and economic reasons, particularly the needs of children, women, and other vulnerable groups… Hence, food and nutrition policies and strategies should promote diversified, balanced , and healthy diets throughout the life-cycle.”
Agriculture and its value chain hold the key to improved nutrition, engaging nourished persons to manage material resources boost the economy. The Government has prioritized human capital development with the support of home-grown innovations in agri-business amongst the women and youths because it believes agriculture is at the center of human development.
In a recent interaction, the AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Tourism, Trade, Industry and Mining, ETTIM, H.E Albert Muchanga called for an increased investment in productive activities like agriculture, manufacturing, agro-processing as he said, member countries need to “ invest heavily on productive transformation to deepen the process of integration because the future of Africa lies in economic integration.”
Speaking on how nourished citizens can boost the economy, Dietician Prosper explained, “The economy is built by the locals who need nourishment, nourishment comes from eating balanced meals, drinking clean water and breathing in fresh air. Having access to nutritious food at the right time and proportion will increase mental development of the people and improving the rural economy would ensure sustainable development and economic growth.”
Citizen Mathias added, “Zimbabwe has adopted the bottom-up approach to agriculture through the land reforms programme, the urban unemployed is now the rural employed, engaged in food production and trade. They now have access to food and money that boosts economic strength. A favorable performance in the agricultural sector would contribute to household resilience, poverty reduction, and food security. Zimbabwe needs nourished citizens to build a virile economy; nutrition ensure good health and good health guarantees a productive life.”
Sifelani Dannie stressed, “As poverty and malnutrition are interlinked, so are prosperity and nutrition; a person with the economic power is more likely to have access to food of the right quality and quantity, eating healthy food with clean water improves health and gives one the necessary energy and the right frame of mind to engage in productive ventures. Utilizing agriculture and its value-chain remain crucial for Zimbabwe’s economy.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a recent event with the African Development Bank, among other things noted, “… My government has agreed on a compensation package for commercial farmers, and we are committed to this…”
At a different forum, he called on investors to “realize the massive investment opportunities in Zimbabwe and shun negative perceptions of risk.” This is believed that the investments would create jobs, give economic power to citizens to access good health.
Zimbabwe is transforming into a knowledge-driven and industrializing upper-middle-income economy by 2030 in line with the AU’s Agenda 2063. With established agro-industrial parks, innovations like climate-smart seeds and aggressive education of rural farmers using Extension workers are deployed to boost agricultural productivity, and food security and improve the economy.
Masuka, a government official at a public function said, “The biggest opportunity was the land reform program that Zimbabwe had embarked on. The government has put agriculture at the top of its agenda. We want to develop agriculture…there are massive opportunities. Agriculture will power our way to achieving vision 2030…”
Sources of nutrition:
Nutritionist, Rumbidzai William acknowledged, “Failure to provide a well-balanced meal and correct portions affect healthy development and leads to a surge in malnutrition cases, as families are succumbed to eating the most affordable foods in an attempt to attain food security in households. In Zimbabwe, the cheapest food sources are cereals such as maize meal, which is the staple carbohydrate food. It can be used in a variety of ways from porridge, to home-baked bread, and sadza which is eaten as a stiff porridge and can also be made into a beverage. Complimenting this with other classes of food can boost nutrition.”
“When nutrition and other health needs of the women and youths are prioritized, the energy gathered would be exerted in wealth creation. People with adequate nutrition are more productive and can create opportunities to end the cycles of poverty and hunger,” a development expert, Tanaka M. says.
UNICEF acknowledged; “Women have distinct nutritional requirements throughout their lives – especially before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, when nutritional vulnerability is greatest. Ensuring women have nutritious diets and adequate services and care is fundamental for the survival and well-being of mothers and their children. Before pregnancy, women need nutritious and safe diets to establish sufficient reserves for pregnancy. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, energy and nutrient needs increase. Meeting them is critical for women’s health and that of their child – in the womb and throughout early childhood…”
But how can Zimbabwe boost nutrition when nearly 84.3 percent of the rural population live below the poverty line with the national poverty rate standing at approximately 63.9 percent, while the proportion of food insecure people has spiked?
The Zimbabwe National Agricultural Policy Framework, NAPF 2019-2030 document gives the solution saying, “Agriculture occupies a central place in the Zimbabwean economy for employment, incomes and poverty reduction… The country is uniquely endowed with rich resources for agricultural development, which is being harnessed to enable the country to become the breadbasket again. Diverse agro-climatic conditions have enabled the country to grow a large variety of crops, with over 23 types of food and cash crops and a variety of livestock species.
“At the continental level, Vision 2063 for Africa, which invariably finds practical expression through continental initiatives like Feed Africa that are funded through the African Development Bank, the European Union, the World Bank, and Foundations represent veritable sources of investments to make the achievement of Zimbabwe’s NAPF objectives a reality…”
The food and nutrition security policy document for Zimbabwe acknowledged that “food and nutrition have positive effects on economic growth. By addressing the issue of food and nutrition, not only is the citizens’ welfare improved but economic growth is enhanced.”
UNICEF again stated, “Local farmers, especially females, have taken the challenge to produce different crops to ensure household food and nutrition security. Women in the rural areas derive their livelihoods from farming and other related rural economic activities. Most subsistence farmers, especially women, have learned to diversify by growing different types of crops as part of resilience efforts. This does not only increase chances of attaining food security, but also improves nutrition as they will have access to a balanced diet.”
Ex-staff of an agriculture-based NGO in Zimbabwe who declined to be named said, the country in the past launched the Zimbabwe National Food Fortification Strategy which was to span from 2014—2018. The strategy was to guard against micronutrient deficiencies because a survey at the time revealed that children under five years were deficient in vitamin A, iron and these children and millions of the adult population were suffering from anemia which affected work performance so staple food needed to be fortified to boost nutrition.
“Items for fortification at that time were maize meal and wheat flour with vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, iron and zinc; sugar with vitamin A, cooking oil with vitamin A and D. Salt was fortified with iodine, these were the efforts to improve the health and nutritional status of the people, only healthy Zimbabweans can build Zimbabwe. Dependence on food aid alone cannot ensure nutrition that is why the solution has to be home-grown. The land tenure system, partnership, finance, irrigation, should be strengthened. Zimbabwean farmers should be supported with technology and capital to adopt policies to attract the young and educated into farming, growing fruits and crops, rearing livestock etc.”
The country’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Vangelis Haritatos noted, “Anything that comes from agriculture has a multiplier effect on the economy. So, we feel that agriculture would positively affect the growth of the economy and that would affect every single value chain as well as every citizen of Zimbabwe. Agriculture is the starting point of any form of upliftment of livelihood and economic expansion and enlargement.
“A well-nourished, healthy workforce is a pre-condition for sustainable development. Farmers are coming on board, they are being trained on how to be productive, we are ensuring that inputs get to them in time so they can plant in time, there is a mechanization in terms of the leasing company that are supporting our farmers but what needed to change was the mindset to encourage the farmers and educate them to understand that farming is a business and if done properly, could be very profitable.
“Our farmers are understanding what is required and through our extension advisory services, we are now bringing in a lot of that. We have Production, Productivity, and Profitability. PPP and that is what we are teaching our farmers to do. We were taught a lot of lessons, first from COVID-19, the geopolitical issues that have come from the recent past and we understand that we need to localize our production of everything involved in food production. I am happy to tell you that we are completely self-sufficient in seed production…”
Meanwhile, H.E. Amb. Josefa Sacko, the AU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment (ARBE), noted that for Africa to achieve the Agenda 2063, the continent needs to invest in modern agriculture for increased proactivity and production as well as exploit the vast potential of Africa’s blue/ocean economy.
She encouraged African countries to adopt the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) which is one of the continental frameworks under Agenda 2063 which aims to help African countries eliminate hunger and reduce poverty by raising economic growth through agriculture-led development as well as promoting increased national budget provision to the agriculture sector.
The Commissioner emphasized that ”Implementing the CAADP is no longer an option,” because, “The disruption of grain deliveries from Ukraine is an opportunity for African countries to increase their food production at home… Food shortages and high prices pose a high risk of social unrest in many African countries.”
Using the Ethiopia example, she added, “they are going to export wheat because, when the (Ukraine/Russia war started, they started producing it;” and reiterated the need for the continent to “leverage the possibilities held by their agricultural land by investing in domestic production and thereby creating jobs and wealth.
Her words: “With 60% of arable land so far uncultivated, there is a large potential to ramp up agricultural production. We have the ecosystem to feed Africa and to feed the world. Governments in Africa are moving to create trans boundary agro-industrial hubs and food corridors in selected part of the continent to boost local supply of key food items and agriculture commodities through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) where at least five agro-industrial hubs are planned under the initiative.
“The program is a part of Africa’s drive to cut reliance on food imports which kept on the rise despite the continent possessing vast amounts of the world’s uncultivated fertile land and a youthful workforce. Over-reliance on food importation exposes many African countries to woes linked to disruptions of global supply chains which see cost of essentials rise beyond reach of low-income consumers across the continent.”
CAADP is to boost local supply of key strategic agricultural commodities such as rice, maize, cassava and yam, livestock such as cattle, sheep, goat, pig and poultry, alongside fisheries and horticulture through agribusiness projects to be established in selected regions of the continent based on their respective agro-ecological advantage.
A World Bank report in 2021 says “Zimbabwe has strong foundations for accelerating future economic growth and improving living standards…”
This article was developed with support from the African Union through the African Union Agenda 2063 Pitch Zone Awards, a partnership with the African Women in Media.