Investing in Women Smallholder Farmers’ Critical
Investing in Women Smallholder Farmers Critical
In its quest to ensure that the policy direction adopted by the new dispensation is responsive to the needs of rural women smallholder farmers who, despite their immense participation in the agricultural value chain are not fully given the much needed support, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) on Tuesday 12th June 2018 held an awareness raising meeting on Public Expenditure on Agriculture in Goromonzi District. The meeting which was held under the theme, “Deconstructing the Zimbabwean Agricultural Policy Direction” was attended by 200 smallholder farmers.
At the start of the 2016/2017 agricultural season, the Government of Zimbabwe introduced command agriculture aimed at ensuring food self sufficiency. Despite the scheme having recorded positive results in the community, some women smallholder farmers argued that lack of collateral security saw the program benefitting their male counterparts the most, a blame they put on the patriarchal nature of the societal systems. Each participating farmer was required to commit five tonnes per hectare towards repayment of advanced loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs, mechanised equipment, electricity and water charges.
The participants also expressed disgruntlement over late input disbursement which affects ultimate productivity and input abuse by some farmers who sell the agricultural inputs, a concern they said can be addressed if strong mechanisms are put in place to arrest the perpetrators who are not only abusing the scheme but are also stealing from their future.
ZIMCODD also took time to sensitise women on how they can track public expenditure in the agricultural sector using a score card. The Agriculture Community Score Card is a participatory and interactive tool for tracking and monitoring public expenditure in the agriculture sector on the basis of timeliness in the distribution of inputs, availability, accessibility, adaptability and acceptability among other indicators with a view to ascertain efficiency and effectiveness of the Presidential Input Scheme and Command Agriculture.
On agricultural program accessibility to people with disability, the participants appreciated the role being played by Government in recognizing PWDs noting that several have benefitted from agricultural schemes. However, they bemoaned the devastating statistics of child marriages in Goromonzi District, a phenomenon that has been exacerbated by poverty. Thus, they called on the Government to urgently intervene and address the scourge.
Figure1 : A faction of women smallholder farmers who attended the meeting
Women also highlighted that they found ZIMCODD’s agricultural monitoring scorecard a critical tool in examining agricultural trends in their communities noting that they were pleased that the 2018 National Budget almost reached the Maputo Declaration threshold of 10% receiving USD497,381,000.00 (9%) of the total budget and expressed optimism that they would also benefit as smallholder farmers.
ZIMCODD’s trade justice and livelihoods thematic area focuses on empowering livelihood groups to improve production and economic benefits from agriculture and other economic ventures.In this project, the organisation seeks to address the engrained exclusion of citizens, especially women in economic governance while theAgriculture Community Score Card programme is designed for small holder farmers to provide feedback to government regarding agricultural support to communities. Such a process will accord women farmers an opportunity to demand for efficient service delivery through dialogue.