Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s participation at the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) annual conference this week has raised hopes for a brighter future among farmers’ unions across the region.
On Monday, President Mnangagwa officially opened the annual conference which is being attended by 18 farmers’ unions from 12 countries in Southern Africa.
Prior to the conference, there was a general concern about lack of political will by governments to finance agriculture and all value chain activities which farmers’ unions felt negatively affected the sector.
However, President Mnangagwa’s commitment to the need to finance and capacitate agriculture for the purpose of transformation of the sector through collaboration by all stakeholders reignited hopes of revival, SACAU vice president Dr Sinare Sinare said yesterday.
“We are elated about the attendance of President Mnangagwa because we feel here is a President who wants to sit and participate with farmers. He is not the first to officiate at the event as then President (Jakaya) Kikwete (of Tanzania) officiated in 2013. What is different this time is that President Mnangagwa stayed and participated in the discussions. This is commendable and gives us hope that governments are starting to seriously consider the plight of the farmer,” he said.
Farmers’ representatives recommended setting up a policy position to engage stakeholders including governments towards a common goal of opening up and facilitating trade, ensuring food security and economic development.
“We are positioning farmers as we engage and talk to governments to increase budgetary allocations to agriculture. We are also talking to Sadc because we want to increase productivity for consumption and export.”
President of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) Dr Vuyo Mahlati said President Mnangagwa had bridged the gap between farmers and governments.
‘It’s encouraging to have the President and his Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (Rt Chief Air Marshal Perrance Shiri) attending the conference. For us we feel appreciated and we see a regional effort in strengthening ties between farmers and governments in the region,” said Dr Mahlati.
While the general feeling was that governments should not put a tighter grip on agricultural activities, farmers unions said intervention in terms of financing and facilitation by governments was key.
A wide range of issues were raised during the deliberations as farmers concurred that it was critical for individual national farmers’ organisations to engage their governments and use platforms such as SACAU for sharing ideas needed to develop the sector in the region.
There were calls for the farmers unions to lobby with one voice as well as push for implementation of policies that create a friendly agricultural environment.
The conference started on Monday and ends today with an annual general meeting which will elect new leadership. The Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union and Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe are hosting the event.