THE Agriculture ministry has released the first draft of the National Agriculture Policy Framework (2018-2030) aimed at providing policy guidelines for revamping Zimbabwe’s agro sector after years of decline. 
The sector has been calling for a comprehensive agricultural policy, as well as the development of a clear irrigation framework to attract meaningful investment.
“The National Agricultural Policy Framework presents guidelines for the agricultural sector to fully achieve its potential as a major driver of economic growth, employment and sustainable development. The framework will serve as a guide to government, the private sector, development partners and civil society organisations in developing the country’s agriculture sector,” Agriculture Minister Perrance Shri said.
Crop and livestock production and productivity in Zimbabwe has significantly declined and remains too low to sustain agricultural growth.
Several factors such as low skills and knowledge base of farmers; a weak research, education and farmer training and extension system as a source of technology and innovation; the shortage of inputs and equipment; low levels of mechanisation; reliance on rain-fed agriculture; limited access to market information and marketing facilities; limited access to finance; limited security of tenure; pest and disease attacks including the fall army worm; low capacity to manage post-harvest losses; and increased incidence and intensity of climate shocks such as El Nino combine to engender low productivity and low production in agriculture.

“Crop and livestock production and productivity has significantly declined and is at the centre of this National Agricultural Policy Framework. With complementary public and private investments in critical subsectors, coupled with the framework and accompanying sectoral strategies, Zimbabwe can become a regional breadbasket again,” Shiri said.
The draft policy noted with concern the inadequate development of agricultural infrastructure that has become a hindrance to the development of the sector.
“For the agricultural sector, inadequate development, rehabilitation and modernisation of agricultural infrastructure across all categories has been a large contributor to low productivity and ultimately competitiveness. The RBZ has made an estimate that approximately $14,2 billion is required to close the infrastructure gap,” the policy document said.
Zimbabwe is ranked 124th out of 137 global economies in terms of business competitiveness. The global competitiveness index further shows that having inadequate supply of infrastructure is perceived as the seventh most problematic factor in doing business in the country, and infrastructure scored 2,4 out of a potential seven.
“The limited access to agricultural machinery and implements is compromising timeliness of farm operations. The current national requirement for tractors and combine harvesters stands at 40 000 and 400 units respectively, against 14 000 tractors and 300 combine harvesters.
“Irrigation plays an important role in agriculture because it reduces farmers’ vulnerability to weather and climate shocks and risks. Zimbabwe has a potential to irrigate more than two million hectares of land and yet, less than 206 000 hectares are currently under irrigation.”
Of the 39,6 million hectares of land in the country, about 42,1 percent is utilised for agriculture.