Agriculture in ZimbabweZimbabwe, a landlocked country in southern Africa, has a long history of agriculture and is home to some of the most fertile land in Africa. However, poverty and agriculture in Zimbabwe have long been intertwined, with many smallholder farmers struggling to make ends meet.

Poverty and Agriculture in Zimbabwe

The World Bank reports that Zimbabwe currently faces a poverty headcount ratio of 39.8% at the national poverty lines, with numerous rural households relying on subsistence farming as their main source of income. Despite these circumstances, the country has the potential to emerge as a significant food producer due to its fertile land and favorable climate conditions.

One of the most prominent challenges for agriculture in Zimbabwe is the limited access to credit and technical assistance. Many small-scale farmers lack the necessary resources and knowledge to invest in their farms and improve productivity. A study published in the Journal of Economic and International Finance reveals that Zimbabwean banks have consistently maintained relatively small agricultural loan portfolios, representing merely 10% to 25% of the total loan books since the country’s current multi-currency system kicked off in 2009. Consequently, this limited access to credit curtails the farmers’ ability to invest in agricultural endeavors and enhance yields.

Additionally, climate change presents barriers for Zimbabwean farmers. Droughts and floods are increasingly afflicting the country, leaving farmers ill-equipped to adapt to these shifting conditions due to limited resources and knowledge. As a result, many farmers have to abandon their crops and rely on food aid for survival.

Efforts to End Poverty in Zimbabwean Agriculture

Despite the many challenges, there are ongoing efforts aiming to address the issue of poverty in the Zimbabwean agricultural sector. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) actively contributes to the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF) by focusing on three priority areas aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These priorities encompass strengthening policy and institutional frameworks, enhancing agricultural productivity and competitiveness, bolstering resilience and the adoption of climate-smart agriculture.

The FAO supports these efforts through several initiatives, including policy formulation, capacity development, irrigation schemes, livestock programs, reduction of post-harvest losses, ensuring food safety, managing climate risks, natural resource management and establishing early warning systems. Collaborations with public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations and donors further promote community resilience and advocate climate-smart agriculture.

Another example is the Zimbabwe Pfumvudza Programme. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, the Zimbabwe Pfumvudza Programme aims to assist vulnerable households in maize, sunflower, small grains and soya bean production. The program supplies standardized input packages, such as 3kg of seed, 50kg of basal fertilizers and 50kg of top dressing fertilizers, sufficient for a 0.125 ha plot. Also, it actively promotes Conservation Agriculture Principles (CA) to address climate-related challenges.

Looking Ahead

Agriculture currently accounts for a substantial portion of the Zimbabwean GDP (17%) and employs a significant percentage of the population (60-70%). By investing in agriculture, Zimbabwe has the potential to generate employment opportunities and stimulate economic growth in both rural and urban areas.

Despite the challenges facing Zimbabwean farmers, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. For example, efforts to promote agricultural development are gaining momentum, and there is growing recognition of the importance of agriculture in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty.

– Amber Kim
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in ZimbabweSince Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, USAID has provided the country with over $3.2 billion in developmental assistance. USAID programs in Zimbabwe have focused on building the country’s health infrastructure, strengthening democratic processes and boosting economic growth. With alarming rates of HIV/AIDS, alongside hindered economic development over the past 30 years, USAID programs like Feed the Future’s FARM Initiative and investments in U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, are proving to be especially significant in developmental progress. 

HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe

In 1991, HIV rates in Zimbabwe reached as high as 49.6% of citizens aged 15-49. This means that, just 32 years ago, about half of Zimbabwe’s adult population was HIV-positive.

While the statistic has dramatically improved to 2.4% in 2021, HIV remains a pressing health concern in the country.  According to WHO (World Health Organization), HIV infection rates were the same in 2021 as in 2020, with as many as “4,000 new infections every day in 2021.” Under PEPFAR (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), USAID’s investment is changing lives for Zimbabweans. WHO also reported that, of these new infections, there seemed to be “key populations”: sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons, and transgender people.” Based on these statistics, PEPFAR has begun releasing and administering Cabotegravir (CAB-LA), a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention — with a focus on delivery to those “sidelined from access to health care because of laws and societal segregation.”

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) approved the long-acting injectable in November of 2022, Zimbabwe being the first country in Africa to approve it.

Agriculture in Zimbabwe

Another way USAID is contributing to Zimbabwe’s development is through agricultural support. Through its Feed the Future program, USAID has offered assistance in rural employment, agricultural productivity and economic development to over 200,000 smallholder farmers.

Zimbabwe’s Fostering Agribusiness for Resilient Markers Activity (FARM), another USAID assistance program, has also had a major involvement in farming development. Established in 2020 and designed to run through June 30, 2025, FARM aims to support Zimbabweans through “climate-smart increased production, productivity, and market linkages,” essentially protecting and commercializing smallholder farmers to facilitate long-term growth. Two ways FARM aims to accomplish this goal, according to USAID, is through:

  1. “Livelihoods opportunities and incomes diversified and expanded through establishing resilient and sustainable market linkages; increased off-farm income opportunities; increased agricultural production and productivity; increased access to appropriate finance; increased adoption of good animal husbandry practices (GAHPs), good agricultural practices (GAPs) and climate-smart technologies and increased investments along the targeted value chains.”

  2. “Improved hygiene- and nutrition-related behaviors through increasing nutrition-sensitive agricultural production and productivity and increased incomes coupled with training and technical assistance on good household nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation practices.”

Thus, USAID’s agricultural assistance programs not only support farmers but equip smallholder farmers with the resources they need to sustain agricultural commerce.

Democracy Building in Zimbabwe

USAID also focuses on democracy, human rights and governance in Zimbabwe. The agency’s work in this regard started in November 1999 in order to assist with a peaceful transition of power amid recent elections. Overall, USAID “strengthens accountability systems by assisting Parliament to increase their independence and effectiveness, improves inclusive electoral processes to better reflect citizen voices, expands access to information, and activates mechanisms for citizen advocacy and oversight.”

Looking Forward

With developmental assistance through USAID’s programs in Zimbabwe, life-threatening diseases like HIV are on the decline, and the economy is growing far more independent through agricultural development assistance. By providing life-saving medicine and prevention practices, alongside crucial agricultural developmental support and democracy building, USAID is aiding Zimbabwe in building a healthy future for all. 

– Micaella Balderrama
Photo: Flickr