The announcement this week that Sakunda will partner Government in a $68 million investment in irrigation is a good example of how the private sector can effectively contribute to economic development.
The partnership, which is set to transform the country’s agricultural sector, comes at a critical time when the country needs to revive its irrigation schemes and establish fresh ones.
But Government cannot go it alone in that endeavour due to various reasons, some of which are beyond its control. This is why we view the stance taken by Sakunda to assist in that regard as crucial.
It is time the private sector stops being aloof to issues that are important to the country’s economic development. For the private sector to function well as it is doing now, the country should be self-sufficient in the provision of food.
We have seen in the past how the country’s economy suffered each time we had a drought. Industries are not spared because there are many of them which depend on agriculture for their raw materials.
And the fact that when hunger stalks a nation, people’s attention is divided between work and search for food becomes a reality.
In short, hunger breeds an untenable situation for all sectors of the economy. It is in this regard that we expected more private sector players to come on board and partner Government in matters to do with food security.
We thank God that the country received enough rains the last farming season, resulting in a bumper harvest. The good rains were complemented by Government initiatives such as Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
We shudder to imagine what will happen in the future if we are visited by another drought, especially in light of the devastating effects of climate change that have made our seasons unpredictable.
We have experienced severe droughts before and we know the consequences on all facets of the economy. One of the reasons why we felt the effects of such droughts was because our irrigation is not up to scratch.
There are a number of irrigation schemes doted in the provinces, but most of them are not realising their full potential because of issues like lack of appropriate equipment.
Our country is endowed with so much water bodies that a deliberate effort to develop irrigation can result in food sufficiency even in times of drought.
Government is targeting 300 000 hectares to be under irrigation in the next three years, and this provides vast opportunities for the private sector to take part in this noble cause.
The private sector should set its priorities right and we are glad that Sakunda is leading the way in that regard. Zimbabwe’s potential to secure food security through irrigation cannot be underestimated.
We are aware that the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development has an irrigation policy in place. But this policy needs the input of the private sector for it to become a reality.
We have new water bodies like the mega Tokwe Mukosi Dam, which have vast potential to contribute immensely to irrigation. By now, there should be some private sector players exploring ways of partnering Government in establishing irrigation schemes around the water body.
We are happy that the Sakunda partnership with Government will result in the installation of centre pivots to strengthen irrigation infrastructure in support of Command Agriculture.
The country cannot depend forever on foreign partners like China, Russia, India, Spain, Brazil and Belarus in the development of its irrigation.
We need internal efforts to ensure that the irrigation projects survive even if such foreign partners decide to pull out.
It is in this light that we view Sakunda’s efforts as of major importance, not only to economic development, but to the people’s welfare.