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International Development

ZET Blog: Farming Reform

The Land Reform Program, amongst other detrimental changes in the climate and political stability around the year 2000, precipitated the initial food shortages and crippled the country’s economy; tipping the scales from economic recession to full blown chaos. The proportions were colossal and were only made worse with several years of mismanagement, bad governance, poor policy formulation and implementation, systemic corruption, and blatant human rights violations which significantly contributed to turning the once so called bread basket of Africa, into an empty basket case, and a basket case of empty stomachs. The normal Zimbabwean, the typical small-scale farmer in rural areas, was not spared in the collapse of the country’s economy and agricultural downturn. The consequences of this recession was; millions left in perpetual need of food aid, millions more trapped in a ‘hunger on repeat’ horror sequel and even more Zimbabweans fleeing into neighbouring South Africa, Zambia and Botswana.

Ever since this downturn, Zimbabwe has relied on grain imports and aid from foreign donors to meet the country’s demand for grain. Drought, lack of financing and political instability hit commercial agriculture severely and those who had benefited from the Land Reform Program failed to produce adequate grain yields to sustain the ever increasing demand for food.

This obviously paints a sorry picture of incompetent authorities, but they did put effort into rectifying the situation. In 2005 and 2006 the government introduced the first Command Agriculture Scheme which was called “Operation Taguta / Sisuthi”. In that program, the army was given the task of tilling large tracts of land as it was peace time and their labour was available. The scheme unfortunately failed to yield the expected results. In 2007, the government introduced the Farm Mechanisation Scheme which was championed by the then Reserve Bank Governor. The scheme largely failed, potentially as a result of alleged corruption whereby mechanisation resources may have been distributed on a political basis to elites.

Government efforts proved to be fruitless and ineffective, and the situation only got worse last year when the maize shortages hit endemic lows due to a severe drought, caused by El Nino which crippled whatever production capacities were left in the country. According to the statistics collected at the time, 4 million people were left in desperate need of critical relief and food aid. This made the government realise the importance of a waterproof strategic plan of action which would be able to guarantee the peoples’ access to food in the event of another reoccurring drought. After the drought in the 2015-2016 farming season, the country experienced more than average rains which paved the way for another government scheme to be introduced. There was much scepticism aligned to the scheme because of the previously failed attempts by the government to ensure food security in the country, on top of issues such as corruption, farmer disloyalty, payment methods for the farmer’s grain and drastic changes of the weather. A lot of risk was involved in the scheme’s implementation process as there were a lot of critical areas which needed attention in order to make the scheme a success.

In 2016, the government re-introduced the Command Agriculture Programme, but this time the army was not involved in the implementation process. The programme was now designed to solve a fundamental problem the country faced in the aftermath of the land reform and severe drought, which was that of mobilising sustainable and affordable funding for agriculture so as to ensure food security, eliminate imports of food to increase exports from the sector and eventually reduce poverty. The 2016-17 farming season set the stage for achieving this goal. The scheme was introduced as Zimbabwe grappled with economic problems and its targeted beneficiaries were farmers near water bodies who could put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize per individual. 2000 farmers met this criteria in total, and each farmer was required to produce at least 1,000 tonnes of maize. Each participating farmer was required to commit 5 tonnes per hectare towards repayment of advanced loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs and chemicals, mechanised equipment, electricity and water charges. Farmers would retain a surplus product produced in excess of the 1,000 tonnes. The programme initially cost $500 million with each farmer earmarked to receive US$250,000 worth of loans. To ensure the success of the scheme, the government introduced regulated banned grain imports to protect the local farmers as well as ensuring food security and farmer prosperity.

The Ministry of Agriculture developed a database of all the beneficiaries of the Command Agriculture Programme, which expanded as more farmers sought to benefit from the scheme and more activities are added to the initiative. As of now, apart from maize the ministry has added specific loans for the production of wheat, soya beans and livestock production. Farmers do not benefit from the scheme unless they are registered in the ministerial database and the financing terms are currently at an all-inclusive interest rate of 5% with a tenure of one year, to allow farmers to sell their produce. Despite the margins of the schemes’ success being debatable – the scheme has been successful in some spheres and pointless in others – the truth of the matter is this: to the hungry old women from the down-trodden rural areas, having sufficient food stocks for the first time since the start of the millennium is a welcome development. The scheme has managed to strategically involve women in participating towards the re-establishment process of the nation’s food security state, revival of the economy and the country’s status as the “Bread basket of Africa”. The integration of Climate Smart Agricultural practices (CSA) could easily double the anticipated yields to be achieved by the farmers, thereby increasing their profitability which means the reduction of the loan repayment period by farmers. The anticipated results have been met in the first phase of the scheme, which was the 2016-2017 season and expectations are high that the 2017-2018 season will yield even better results. This is yet to be seen.

Written by Kudakwashe Kutesera, Foundations for Farming
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, Zimbabwe Educational Trust


ZET Blog: 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we take a look back at what your support has enabled us and our partners to achieve this year!

It’s been a busy year for ZET, providing vital support for three grassroots partner organisations in Zimbabwe and expanding the work we do back here in the UK. Thanks to you, we and our partners stepped up to the challenge…

Trinity Project

Trinity faced a challenging start to the year, beginning the first year since 2012 where they would receive no UK government project funding and being impacted by devastating floods across southern Zimbabwe. As ever, they rose to the challenge and launched a ZET-supported emergency appeal to provide food, shelter and supplies to flood victims. Beyond this, Trinity provided longer term recovery efforts including nutritional gardens and village loan schemes to help communities back on their feet.

Incredibly, Trinity Project also managed to carry on their usual work on birth registration. This year, responding the needs of the communities they work in and to support more vulnerable groups, Trinity expanded to work on access to a range of socioeconomic rights, including registration, education, healthcare and social services. This was very successful, reaching hundreds of families to provide services and support. Trinity is finally reaping the benefits of years of advocacy work, having been asked this year to draft a parliamentary motion on birth registration, meeting with multiple elected officials and community leaders, and having continued exposure in local media and academic articles. ZET’s support this year has funded transport and vehicle costs, which is essential in keeping the project successful and enabling staff to visit beneficiaries, local communities and stakeholders to provide their services.

Rafiki Girls Centre

Rafiki continued to provide transformative opportunities for young women in Harare, supporting 60 women this year to obtain education and training. Each graduate completed three months of life skills training, aimed at building up their confidence and self-sufficiency, with courses including sewing, computing, cookery and offering optional HIV testing and counselling. Trainees finish their time at Rafiki with a six-month vocational course run by an externally-accredited organisation, to build up their qualifications and employability and providing them with a connection to an employer when they graduate. Courses running in 2017 included hospitality, design, teaching and nursing, amongst others. This vocational training and link to an external organisation offers women the best chance to build a career, and 85% graduates went onto obtain work. Rafiki also works to holistically develop its students, offering them opportunities to relax and have fun, a vital part of growing up which they often do not have at home, through a range of recreational activities. These included movie nights, dinners and away trips to a national park, as well as extra-curricular learning opportunities such as HIV workshops and Careers Days.
Rafiki also has exciting news! Thanks to increased support from one of their other partners in the UK, Rafiki have been given partial funding to DOUBLE their capacity. This step is essential, as Rafiki currently receives three applications for every place it can offer, and this time last year the Centre had dozens of girls actually turn up on their doorstep, desperate to be considered for a traineeship. As demand for Rafiki Girls Centre and its vital services is so high, this step is important. However, we are not there yet, and Rafiki needs more support and funding from other donors, such as ZET, to be able to deliver this new expanded capacity. We will desperately need your support to make this a reality in 2018.


Foundations for Farming

The year was kickstarted for Foundations for Farming, who secured their largest ZET funding since our partnership began. This enabled them to run a project working with two local schools, building up the capacity of staff and students on conservation agriculture, so they would be better equipped to manage the land and produce more food and potential income for their school and community.

The projects were relatively successful, led by passionate staff at Foundations for Farming who went above and beyond to support the needs of the two beneficiary schools, and working with two very engaged and willing local schools. There was a lot of evidence that staff and students had adopted the principles taught by Foundations for Farming and were keen to implement these methods. However, both schools faced challenges beyond their control. The first school was forced to shut down due to lack of funds, however the teacher we had been working with was so committed to the project that she continued teaching these farming methods in her own back garden, with great success. The second school struggled with producing crops due to water shortages in their village. The school relied on students to bring in water from home to supplement the school and the plot, which was unsustainable. Foundations for Farming were impressed by their knowledge of and commitment to the project, so continued to support the school by providing them with tools, crops and farming methods more suited to dry arid land. Next year, Foundations for Farming desperately needs support to be able to reach more schools with this provenly effective project which helps staff and children gain skills and put food on the table, but also so that the project team have the capacity to provide additional support and resources when it is needed, as it has been this year.

Schools Outreach

This year, ZET has launched an exciting new initiative, working with local schools to deliver global learning sessions, where children and young people can learn about life in Zimbabwe, building up empathy and community links. We have been kindly supported by local organisations and universities, who have made this work possible and we look forward to expanding this work in the new year.

So far, ZET has worked with Westerton Primary School and Lee Briggs Infant and Nursery School, running interactive assemblies and workshops which aim to inform the children about Zimbabwe and challenge some of the misconceptions they may hold about other cultures and communities.

We have worked with children ranging in age from 5 to 9 running sessions, activities and games which teach about life, school, homes, jobs and culture in Zimbabwe, the history of the country and the UK’s relationship with them, and the work of ZET. We have been continuously impressed by how empathetic and engaged the children have been and it was lovely to see them engage with Zimbabwe in a positive, constructive way. The classes showed real interest by asking challenging questions, retaining detailed information and putting themselves in the shoes of children in Zimbabwe – even discussing complex issues like climate change, political shifts in Zimbabwe, and the birth registration process!

We will continue to work with these schools and more in the future, so watch this space.

Fundraising Events

Thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers, ZET has regularly held fundraising events throughout the year, all of which have been a resounding success and raised over £1000 for the Trust between them. This includes student-run pub quizzes at a range of local pubs – so we continue to thank Leeds students and their locals for having us! On top of this, the parishioners at Headingley St Columba ran an appeal this Lent and raised £1310 for ZET, so thank you all for your very generous support.

Most importantly, ZET turned 30 this year!!! And we celebrated in style with a big event in October, with music, poetry, Zimbabwean food, dancing and speakers all coming together to celebrate Zimbabwean culture, diaspora and the incredible work of ZET over the past 30 years! Thank you so much to all of you who attended or supported us – here’s to another 30 years.

If you have an idea for an event or fundraiser, or would like to raise money for ZET, please do get in touch!

Looking forward to 2018…

ZET has big plans for next year, starting the year with a visit to each of our partners in Zimbabwe to plan for working together in the future and develop our strategy and goals for the next few years. ZET hopes to capitalise on the momentum being felt across Zimbabwe, to transform the opportunity of a new period in the country into opportunities and support for our beneficiaries. We will continue to fundraise and support each of our partners, and hope you will join us in this mission.

Thank you so much for all your support this year. Together, we have transformed the lives and opportunities of hundreds of disadvantaged young people in Zimbabwe.

If you would like to give the gift of education this Christmas you can donate here: www.zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk/support-us

Written by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: Development Approaches

Development – like freedom, cannot be endowed, it must be achieved

Apparently the world of international development is at an impasse – so many theories, so many conferences, so many papers published, and still the poor remain poor and the development workers somewhat at a loss. The journey has been long – from a certain General Marshall’s utterances in 1947 through the large-scale construction projects, from the ‘discovery’ of poverty by the World Bank in the seventies to the present day era of glamour-aid. Though some successes have been noted, poverty on the whole is still here – and increasing.

So then, why is so much goodwill generating such conflicting results? What are we doing wrong? Well, this is my view – in the first instance, what is development? My belief is that development is – in the words of McEwan – a natural, immanent evolutionary process without intentionality. What I think he means is that, left alone, people will find a way to improve their lot in life. That in fact this is an instinctive drive in all of humanity to improve our condition. We do this in a form of trial and error – learning, adjusting, adapting – and in the process, developing or improving. The process is as important as the result. But more importantly, the result is not always clear at the beginning – so for instance I set off thinking I am going to be a farmer, and through trial and error find that actually I am a talented musician, and maybe I should be a rock star. We all more or less meander our way through life in this way – and the key thing here is that we make the choice of what lessons to keep, and what lessons to discard – a process describe by sociology as agency : the ability of people to make independent choices.

However, with the ‘discovery’ of poverty, development changed from being a natural process informed by independent choice, to ‘an intentional practice with a set goal’ i.e. a means to create order out of the social disorder of rapid urbanisation, poverty and unemployment. Development thus could be determined and directed towards a known end using suitable tools. This therefore meant that someone (the development expert) sat down and decided what the desired goal was (the poor person will be a farmer not a rock star) and then said expert devises tools to make this happen. Expert then sells plan to a donor and a timescale is agreed – so development worker has 3 years to turn poor person into a farmer.

This is where the fun begins. We have had five decades of tools of development – from the original blue-prints that assumed so much and achieved so little. We have redefined words like participation, local ownership, sustainability etc. In fact we have even debated and understood agency (and then tried to manage it…..) We have created complex tools like the log-frame. Conference papers have been read in their numbers, and small successes hailed. But in the main – people are still poor. And now we have an impasse.

The impasse is, I believe, the best thing to come out of international development. Because now we can look at what development is – a natural process. And what it is not – the intentional practice. All the effort of trying to harness what is essentially an internal process has not worked because it cannot work. No amount of planning and funding can replace agency – the need for people to make independent choices. Both those who hand over this internal drive to another, and those who try to manage this in the lives of other people – no matter how well intentioned, will fail. Development is the process, it’s what people achieve for themselves – it cannot be planned and managed by a third party.

This article was originally published by The Global Native in 2016.

Written by Na Ncube, Director at The Global Native

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