Zimbabwe: Government policy inconsistencies hinder youth involvement in agricultural entrepreneurship (IPS News)

| April 11, 2021

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Youth in Zimbabwe are looking to the government to provide more support than free inputs for their farming ventures. Lihle Moyo is a 27-year-old farmer from Gwanda who rears poultry and grows cabbage, tomatoes, and onions on his father’s land. Thanks to financial support from his family, he was able to buy necessary equipment, including water storage tanks and a generator, and was able to install a borehole. But not all youth are fortunate enough to receive this type of financial support, and government programs typically offer only seeds and fertilizer. For youth to farm year-round, they need more support.

Lihle Moyo is a 27-year-old farmer from Gwanda, a town 160 kilometres away from Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. After finishing college, he decided to start a small farming business, which includes poultry, cabbage, tomato, and onions, on his father’s eight hectares of land. Thankfully, through financial support from his relatives, Mr. Moyo was able to buy the necessary equipment for his endeavour, like installing a borehole and purchasing water storage tanks and a generator.

Unfortunately, not all youth have been fortunate enough to receive help procuring start-up capital. There are government programs that provide free inputs like seeds and fertilizer, but those are not enough to start a farm business.

Mr. Moyo explains: “Even if you get these free things, you still have to think about how you are going to maintain your farm. And, in any case, one still has to contend with the fact that not every young farmer wants to plant maize. We want to try other things.”

Thirty-year-old Dumisile Gumpo has given up on dreams of large-scale farming. He currently plants maize, pumpkins, and peas, and says, “I am only farming now on my parents’ land because of the rains. After the rains, it means I will wait again for the next rainy season.”

He adds, “I would love to do farming all year round, but I don’t see how when I have no cash to venture into other things such as poultry or even installing a borehole.”

For many youth in Gwanda region, the instant riches offered by illegal mining activities seem more attractive than farming.

Experts say that youth involvement in agriculture has not truly taken off because of government policy inconsistencies and a lack of knowledge and research on young farmers’ needs.

The International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) says that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are at a period in time where the “re-invention of the agricultural sector is indispensable today,” and that young people will be a foundational component to this revolution.

But without government assistance in the form of finance or training, it’s difficult for youth to take action. Mr. Moyo says: “I have no business model, I just do what I think needs to be done. For example, with the poultry project, I lost a lot of chicks when I first started because I had no clue about the business of raising chickens.”

While Zimbabwe has distributed loans to youth in the past, Mr. Moyo says it has always been difficult to access these loans because farming is not seen as an enterprise that guarantees immediate returns.

He says: “We have seen in the past young people being given loans. But even for any project, it has always been hard to get anything from government. Imagine telling them about your big ideas about farming.”

Shiferaw Fekele is an agro-economist. In a presentation to CARE Intermediaries, he said, “There is a lack of youth-specific, research-based evidence to inform the design of youth-relevant policy and development programs.” He highlights the need for “youths researching youth” because, he says, “youths have a better grasp than anyone else of their peers’ real needs, aspirations, challenges, and perspectives on agriculture.”

Fortunately, some NGOs are taking action. The Enhancing Capacity to Apply Research Evidence project sponsored by IFAD and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture has been working alongside young researchers to consult with the national government and develop enhanced youth policies. There is still much work to be done, but young farmers like Mr. Moyo and Mr. Gumpo can become trailblazers for the future of youth in agriculture, contributing to the food security of the country and creating fulfilling careers for the rest of their lives.

This story is based on an article written by Ignatius Banda and published by the Inter Press Service on March 16, 2021, titled “Policy Inconsistencies and Poor Research Slow Young Farmers in Africa.” To read the full story, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2021/03/policy-inconsistencies-and-poor-research-slow-young-farmers-in-africa/

Photo credit: Busani Bafana / IPS