Wednesday, June 04, 2008

(HERALD) ‘Land key to food security’

‘Land key to food security’
writes Itai Musengeyi from ROME, Italy.

PEOPLE can help address the question of global food security if they are given better access to their natural resources, especially land, President Mugabe said yesterday, writes Itai Musengeyi from ROME, Italy. Addressing a Food and Agriculture Organisation world food security summit at the United Nations agency’s headquarters here, Cde Mugabe said Zimbabwe’s primary agriculture policy remained that of ensuring national and household food security through own production. In this regard, he said, Zimbabwe had recognised the importance of land in agricultural production and food security.

"Thus, over the past decade, Zimbabwe has democratised the land ownership patterns in the country, with over 300 000 previously landless families now proud landowners. Previously this land was owned by a mere 4 000 farmers, mainly of British stock," Cde Mugabe told the summit.

He said while the land reform programme had been warmly welcomed by the vast majority of Zimbabweans, it had elicited the wrath of the former colonial master, Britain, and its Western allies.

"In retaliation for the measures we took to empower the black majority, the United Kingdom has mobilised her friends and allies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand to impose illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe," said the President.

As a result, all development assistance to Zimbabwe has been cut off, lines of credit disabled, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund prevented from providing financial assistance and private companies in the United States ordered not to do business with Zimbabwe.

"All this had been done to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy and thereby effect illegal regime change in our country. Funds are being channelled through non-governmental organisations to opposition political parties, which are a creation of the West.

"Further, the Western-funded NGOs also use food as a political weapon with which to campaign against Government, especially in the rural areas," said President Mugabe.

He, however, said these constraints had not deterred Government from taking measures to increase agricultural productivity.

President Mugabe said Government had prioritised irrigation and was now spearheading the building of small and medium-sized dams in all the districts as well as providing inputs to farmers such as seed, fertilizers and agro-chemicals to boost production.

"To cushion farmers from the rising cost of agricultural inputs, my Government has put in place supportive programmes, which include the Crop and Livestock Input Credit Scheme and the Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility which extends loans to farmers for working capital and equipment at concessionary rates," said Cde Mugabe.

Government had also embarked on a farm mechanisation programme for small and large-scale farmers.

"All these support facilities for the farmers are aimed at addressing the issue of productivity and food security at both the household and national levels."

President Mugabe said in 2004, Government embarked on the development of the bio-energy sector which draws its feedstock primarily from a non-food crop, the jatropha plant.

"The choice of jatropha is a deliberate Government policy to avoid competition between our food needs and fuel security needs. The use of jatropha seeds as feed stock in the bio-diesel programme is set to benefit our farmers as it widens their income base through an expanded market for the jatropha seed."

Cde Mugabe said challenges facing developing countries must be addressed through increased investment in agriculture, from both domestic and international development partners with organisations such as FAO continuing to provide technical expertise in areas such as bio-energy policies to allow for a balance between food and fuel security at both national and global levels.

"Parallel to these capacity boosting initiatives, there is need to demonstrate political commitment to the Doha Round negotiations that should deliver a sustainable reform of the global trade policies in agricultural commodities.

"I wish to restate that this summit needs to formulate robust action plans that recognise the need for fair trade policies in order to contribute towards the growth potential of the agriculture sector in the developing world."

Cde Mugabe said the global food crisis was linked to global warming and the use of agricultural commodities in producing bio-fuels and there was need for world leaders to address the issue.

He said Southern Africa was one of the regions at risk from the effects of climate change yet Africa as a whole accounted for less than 5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

Over the past 10 years, the frequency and severity of droughts in Southern Africa had increased as a result of climate change.

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