By Margaret Matibiri

THE portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement has called for the early disbursement of agricultural funds among other crucial pointers aimed at the betterment and growth of the country’s agricultural sector.

In a report on outcomes from public consultations conducted by the committee, several pertinent issues were raised, chief among them being the serious accumulation of funds backlogs.

“It is clear there are significant delays in the release of funds leading to serious backlogs. Disbursement should be done timeously in order for various programme objectives to be met,” reads a report by Honourable Justice Mayor Wadyajena, the chairperson of the committee of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement.

“The Ministry tends to hoard resources. As a result, there is underutilisation of funds for dam construction and other projects. Channelling funds towards the completion of one dam is a better outcome than underfunding the development of ten dams.

“Greater research must be done around the cost-benefit of GMO crops for strategic crops such as cotton or localised funding of tobacco, given the nation benefits 20 percent of tobacco sales. Local finance
institutions should be rewarded for offering incentives to tobacco producers to borrow locally.

Honourable Wadyajena called for relevant institutions to implement ‘ease of doing business policies to attract greater investment into the agricultural sector.

“The Ministry needs to begin re-orienting itself towards introducing programmes that are built around self-sufficiency and sustainability.
There is a need to implement expenditure tracking instruments. It has been noted that agricultural resources are being misused therefore the Ministry needs to keep a track record of every resource that it has disbursed to different stakeholders.

“Relevant institutions should implement ‘ease of doing business’ policies to attract greater investment into the sector. Adequate project budget allocation, enough to achieve meaningful progress and the timeous availability of actual cash resources as well as easing of procurement processes is key in growing the sector.”

The committee also called on the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement to work with bodies such as ZimTrade to help farmers better understand and identify global markets.