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The 1991/92 season drought had a nation-wide devastating effect on crop and livestock farming activities, and indeed on the whole Zimbabwean economy. Most farmers lost the whole of their crop and livestock. The Grain Marketing Board's intake of grain and oil seeds was negligible. The livestock sector was seriously affected with huge depletions in both cattle and small stock, with the smallholder farming sector alone losing over 1.2 million cattle.
Besides the immediate impact of the drought on people and livestock, the drought also had a long-term impact on the whole agricultural industry. First, the farmers were unable to service their debt with the various financial institutions and were thus unable to borrow. Second, widespread deaths of animals left farmers with no source of draught power. Third, the loss of income also left farmers with no purchasing capacity to fulfil their input requirements for the coming season. It became obviously difficult for the agricultural sector to recover from this devastation without external assistance.
In its efforts to assist the hardest hit smallholder farmers who entirely depend on farming for both income and food, the Government launched an Agricultural Mitigation and Recovery Programme which was introduced and implemented for the first time in the 1992/93 season. This recovery programme was targeted at 80 percent (i.e some 920 000 households) of all small holder farmers from the communal, resettlement and small scale commercial farming subsectors.
1.2 Components of the programme
In order to forestall wide scale famine and restore household food security status of the small holder farmers, the Government put in place a number of programmes,
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covering the following components:-
These components eventually developed into three broad programmes, namely: cattle restocking programme, a debt rescheduling programme, and a crop pack programme.
1.2.1 Cattle Restocking Programme
During 1994, the Government made available Z$16 million through the Cold Storage Commission for on lending to smallholder farmers. Beneficiaries for this programme were identified and recommended to the Cold Storage Commission by the Zimbabwe Farmers Union in conjunction with Agritex. A further five million (Z$5m) dollars was made available through the Agricultural Finance Corporation for the same purpose. These resources enabled farmers to purchase about 12 500 animals sourced largely from the large scale commercial farming areas which had relatively been less affected by the drought. In 1996 the Government sourced a further Z$20 million dollars which was channelled through the Cold Storage Commission. This facility, commonly known as the "Heifer Loan Scheme", enabled smallholder farmers to acquire about 3 862 head of cattle by the end of May 1997.
1.2.2 Debt Rescheduling
After the 1991/92 drought most farmers, both small scale and large scale, could not service their debt due to loss of income. In response to this development, the Government sourced funds on the Agricultural Finance Corporation's behalf, from the World Bank to facilitate rescheduling of farmers' debt. Under this arrangement farmers were
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expected to pay back with staggered interests of 5%, 7.5% and 10% in the first, second and third year respectively.
1.2.3 Crop Pack Programme
The smallholder farming sector has received nearly Z$756 million worth of free seed, fertiliser and related services under the crop pack programme since the 1992/93 season. The programme was introduced to enable smallholder farmers to get back into production after the 1991/92 season drought. Under the programme the Government distributed through Agritex, free seed and fertiliser to identified beneficiaries. The identification of beneficiaries was left to local authorities (such as traditional leadership and Councillors), Agritex and, in some areas, the local leadership of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union.
Under this programme the Government was responsible for the procurement of crop seeds and fertilisers, and for transporting these inputs to identified distribution centres throughout the country.
The crop pack programme forms the scope of this evaluation. It seems pertinent, before discussing the results of the evaluation, to examine the programme's objectives and indicate the magnitude of capital injection into the programme.
a) Crop Pack Programme Objectives
The objectives of the Crop Pack Programme include the following:-
It seems that the programme's thrust aims to achieve both social and economic objectives. The assessment for the programme's impact and/or achievement will have to take account of this fact.
b) Capital Injection into the Programme
It has already been noted that the Government has spent almost Z$756 million on the crop pack programme for the smallholder sector since its inception. Table 1.1 summarises the temporal financial allocations for the five years of the implementation of the programme. This financial burden of the programme on the exchequer is most obvious.
Table 1.1 : Financial Commitment to Crop Pack Programme (Z$m)
SOURCE: Research data, 1997.
NOTE: Distribution costs include transport, subsistence allowances, printing and wages (casual labour)
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This is reflected in the reduction of the allocations from Z$293 million for the 1992/93 season to Z$100 million in 1996/97. As a result, the quantities of seeds and fertilisers distributed under the programme have also equally been declining over the years. Table 1.2 appears to clearly confirm this assertion (see column 4). It seems there is a need to formulate and implement a cost recovery programme for promoting the development of the small scale agricultural sector.
TABLE 1.2: The Quantities of Inputs Disbursed in Metric Tonnes
SOURCE: Government reports, 1996
c) Reflections on the Programme
It must be remembered that the crop pack programme was originally formulated as a drought recovery strategy. But it has now been turned into a general assistance programme for small holder farmers. The programme has managed to assist a significant number of beneficiaries for the past five seasons.
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Table 1.3 shows that the programme has also managed to transform net food deficit households to net surplus positions, thus circumventing the need for massive food imports. Nevertheless, a number of issues have emerged over the effectiveness of the crop pack programme. These issues include the following:-
TABLE 1.3: Crop Production in Metric Tonnes
SOURCE: Government reports, 1996.
In some areas farmers have tended to wait for the distribution of the packs which in many cases do not arrive or arrive very late with serious negative effects on yields.
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Consequent upon the above issues two schools of thoughts have emerged over the benefits of the programme. From an economic perspective, there is need to introduce fiscal cost reducing measures to the programme in favour of market based supply system perceived as more efficient in allocating resources to productive uses. It is believed that reliance on market forces in guiding and regulating input distribution will result in optimal use of available resources and the creation of more amenable environment which promotes rural based entrepreneurship and reliable input access. From political view point the programme is justified as unavoidable developmental costs and means of uplifting the historically disadvantaged and marginalised smallholder farmers.
Given the conflict of balancing the ever increasing fiscal expenditure on the programme with the need to promote the development of the smallholder farming sector a study has been deemed necessary to evaluate the programme's effectiveness and efficiency in meeting the set objectives and drawing lessons which would guide future government policy on the crop pack programme.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Januar 2002