A study by the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies (SMAIAS) paints a grim picture on the state of affairs on most prime land distributed under the country’s land reform exercise with production plummeting to levels associated with arid regions of the country and peasant farmers.
Beneficiaries of land under the A2 model which should be the anchor of agriculture production are the most culpable dismally performing despite enjoying subsidized prices for their produce and consuming the bulk of resources under various government agriculture programmes such as command agriculture.
According to the ministry of finance Expenditure on agriculture, reached US$1.1 billion as at August 2018, against an annual Budget target of US$401 million and this has been one of the major drivers of the budget deficit.
The situation has been compounded by high default rates by beneficiaries of various Government programmes.
However, the largesse by the state has failed to increase productivity with A2 farmers producing 1.37 tonnes per hectare for maize far below A1 farmers who are producing on average 2.19 tonnes per hectare for maize.
Under the command agriculture programme the study revealed A2 farmers received on average inputs for 6hectares while their A1 counterparts received inputs for 1.6hectares.
Further A2 farmers are given inputs ahead of A1 farmers and about 20% of farmers failed to meet their obligations under the command programme.
The poor performance by A2 farmers is replicated in the winter wheat programme in which government through the command programme took up 67% of resources but produced 56% of output.
Private sector contractors under winter wheat cropping only took up 33% of resources yet they produced 44 percent of output.
The study attributed the poor performance of A2 farmers to a number of reasons that include agro ecological zoning, late arrival of inputs and poor extension services.
It also flagged certain clauses in the contracts which penalize farmers in cases of default but there is no clause which protects the farmer in the event of delay of provision of inputs by the state.
The study also revealed that the command agriculture programme was mainly constituted by male participants who made up 84% of participants against 16% for female.
Government is reviewing the financing mechanism with a view of sharing the burden with private sector.