The buzzword of many in the world today is the issue of climate change.
has been enhanced by the storms that have ravaged different parts of
world this past summer in the northern hemisphere. In the southern
hemisphere we wait to see what is in store for us and I fear it will
either pleasant or easy to deal with.
The general consensus is that climate change is going to make areas of
rainfall, wetter and areas of low rainfall drier. So here in
can expect (if the predictions are true) that our average precipitation
decline in the next decade. This will make agriculture here an even
attractive business activity than it has already become because of the
impact of the illegal occupation of commercial farms and the
destruction of the support infrastructure that maintained agriculture
during the past 100 years.
What made this country a success in agriculture was a whole range of
factors - all of which are now in disarray. We had a unique population
highly trained and skilled commercial farmers, a network of world-class
research centers and an excellent extension programme. The commercial
banking system and a substantial grid of industrial firms completed the
picture, enabling farmers to produce and compete in global markets
sanctions and all the other impediments that third world farmers have
contend with - including the Common Agricultural Policies of the EU.
was also facilitated by large, well run marketing organisations.
The large-scale commercial farmers were able, in a dry season, to bring
irrigation to bear on an astonishing 80 per cent of all commercial
land. Some 280 000 hectares of arable land could be irrigated - most of
not for long because of stored water shortages, but for long enough in
season to make the difference between a crop and a failure. Because of
capacity, despite a 40 per cent mean variation in rainfall from one
another, Zimbabwe became one of the largest producers of white maize in
world, a leading breeder of crop varieties and self sufficient in all
grains. We also became the third largest producer and exporter of flue
tobacco and a large producer of a wide variety of other agricultural
What is not generally understood is that the small scale or peasant
which in itself was a major component of the agricultural industry,
producing in a reasonable season up to 70 per cent of maize grains and
80 per cent of all seed cotton; has been equally affected by the
commercial agriculture and its support infrastructure. Peasant sector
production has in fact declined in line with the decline in overall
not by quite the same extent, but still very significantly.
Climate change will further damage the prospects of the subsistence
These farmers, some 800 000 of them - mostly women, do not produce
significant surpluses and with the growth in urban populations the
dependence on commercial large scale farming is likely to grow
in the years ahead. This deteriorating outlook for the capacity of the
small-scale sector to meet even subsistence needs is being compounded
HIV/Aids situation. Many families on the land simply do not have the
capacity to do the hard physical work that is required for subsistence
farming. This is a factor that is being reinforced by the flight to
countries of millions of young adults who would otherwise be available
help with the work in rural areas.
This is a nightmare situation and one which, if not addressed by all
responsible, could simply result in Zimbabwe becoming a perennial
food aid on a massive scale. We have not fed ourselves for the past 5
and this years cropping season is likely to be the worst for many
This condemns us to being food aid recipients in 2006 right through to
2007. This "hunger season" will require food imports from all sources
feed the majority of our population and half will require assistance,
they cannot afford the food.
It needs to be understood that a recovery in agriculture will not be
and will take many years, if not decades. It will not even begin if we
not recognise that the so-called "land reform" exercise has been an
unmitigated disaster - for everyone. It is absolutely necessary to
acknowledge that only large-scale commercial agriculture - perhaps
by companies with the required resources and expertise, can actually
with the new climatic conditions that are emerging in this part of the
world. However, they simply cannot even start operations without real,
concrete, long-term security over assets, including land. Unless Africa
comes to grips with this reality it is difficult to see much more than
continuing crisis in the food and agricultural sector, not just in
but anywhere where similar conditions exist.
But while we recognise that climate change is affecting our farming
activities, we must also recognise that there are massive changes
place in other spheres that might also be described as "climate
changes in the political climate for example. No longer can tyrants
Mugabe get away with what he is doing unscathed. The new era of instant
communications and the emergence of a coherent international consensus
basic, universal, human and political rights has changed all that. The
growth of democratic States and the demise of autocratic, Marxist power
blocks has reinforced these trends so that we now have a much more
principled and robust international environment that is intolerant of
who violate the perceived norms that constitute good governance.
Mugabe has not got away with his antics - he has and is being punished
them and will one day be held accountable. That is what these modern
century dictators fear most. The specter of Saddam in the dock before
is a constant nightmare for those who violate the new rules.
Closer to home it has been encouraging this past three weeks to see how
ordinary people in Zimbabwe reject the old tyrants of tribal politics
ethnic divides. I well remember the 60's when the two dominant
Parties battled it out for turf in the Townships. Killings and riots,
directed not at the white minority government of the day, but at each
Setting back the agenda for black rights and political freedom by 20
Local leaders trying the same story today are being simply brushed
the people and I see great hope in that for the country as a whole.
16th November 2005