Friday, September 16, 2011

(HERALD) US ambassador admits Zim agricultural sector’s potential

US ambassador admits Zim agricultural sector’s potential
Friday, 16 September 2011 02:00
Agriculture Reporter

UNITED States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Charles Ray recently admitted that Zimbabwe's agriculture sector had "unlimited potential for growth" and was poised to witness a "quantum growth" in the next decade if farmers got the necessary support.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with Zimbabwe's Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made to which he had accompanied the incoming USAid Mission Director, Melissa Williams, Ambassador Ray said the current climate problems were the biggest undoing to the sector.

"This makes it necessary for developmental efforts to focus on revitalising the irrigation capacity of the country to mitigate the effects of drought. Once agricultural productivity is re-invigorated, the other sectors of Zimbabwe's economy will start operating viably while farmers can also practice crop diversity and even value addition," said Ambassador Ray.

He said he had in the past season been assisting smallholder farmers doing agricultural projects in the country's rural areas with a view of increasing productivity and consequently food security.

"Last season alone we funded small projects across the country to the tune of US$300 000 while we started off with 45 000 beneficiaries, a number that later rose to 120 000.

"We are looking forward to an increase in the number of households as well as the funding this season," he added.

In expressing his appreciation, Minister Made also added that Zimbabwe and the US were to sign four agreements to enable USAid to mobilise resources for more projects to help poor rural households.

"Under the arrangement, farmers with the potential to produce surplus will also be assisted so that they produce in excess to boost food reserves and at the same time make available raw materials for

the manufacturing and processing industries.

"The funding will not be free but on loan basis. Some of the farmers may even be asked to make down payments for the loans before they can access them," Minister Made said.

Prior to meeting US ambassador, Minister Made had also met the First Secretary at the Embassy of India, Mr Mukesh Kumar who revealed that his country would be sending 33 companies to Africa under the India-Africa forum to explore ways of co-operation with African business companies.

The Indian delegation will be in Botswana from 18-19 September 2011, then Zimbabwe from 19-20 and finally South Africa from 21-22. This is a follow up to the invitation the Indian Prime Minister extended to African governments to start business partnerships with companies from his country.

The companies will seek partnerships in sectors of mining, agriculture and manufacturing among others.

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