A group of Zimbabweans based in the diaspora are eyeing to transform the country’s agricultural sector through mobilisation of resources and know-how across the value chain so that farming communities and stakeholders in backward and forward linkages have opportunities to strengthen their own skills, expertise and sustainable lives.They intend to mobilise funding for the intended project kick-start various projects across the country.
The diasporans are working under the banner of what they call Zimbabwe Agricultural Initiative (ZAI).
Last week, the ZAI executive made up of Mr George Nhera, Mr Garikayi Mushambadope, Mr Bernard Bwoni and Ms Tsitsi Mudokwani visited Zimbabwe and met with various stakeholders and set up the foundations of the projects.
Mr Bernard Bwoni, an agricultural economist, told The Herald that ZAI was a revolutionary concept driven by patriotic Zimbabweans of diverse backgrounds who want to see agriculture take off in Zimbabwe.
He explained: “ZAI is built on a strong membership from the Zimbabwe diaspora community, who genuinely want to see economic development for Zimbabwe and an end to food shortages, poverty and unemployment in the country. The organisation has people with various experiences and skills sets including but not limited to agriculture. These portfolios of different skills sets have been carefully grouped together in clusters and thematic programmes to enhance delivery. As part of ZAI’s key objectives, we are going to be involved in the full agricultural value chain to bring rural transformation, strengthen local community skills base, infrastructure development and market linkages. We are looking at benefiting our own members and those communities where we will partake in agricultural activities and partner with local farmers.
“Our core value lies in developing agriculture and its ancillary services in the country informed by the country’s ZIMASSET economic blueprint. ZAI believes in a partnership approach and is looking at partnering with local farmers in a multitude of agricultural projects,” he said.
“We are encouraging all our potential partners to consider us as their own in-house resource mobilisation department and we are looking at empowering local communities. We have so far met with relevant stakeholders and our projects are about working together in joint teams with our partners, stakeholders and government to play an integral part in helping the country to achieve tangible agricultural business outcomes.”
He said ZAI was committed to poverty alleviation and food security.
ZAI is seeking buy-in from Government and provincial lands committees to access the land for the proposed projects.
After holding meetings with stakeholders, Mr Bwoni said the response was “overwhelming”.
Said Mr Bwoni: “The response from all stakeholders has been positive and drawn up proposals have been submitted. ZAI is not looking at communities working for them, but rather collaborative work with local communities and cascading benefits down the value chain. ZAI is also looking at farming as a business and intends to create jobs and make a profit out of all ventures engaged in.”
Various areas that the team looked at include partnership options to include contract farming, joint ventures, service provision and individual land plots.
“We are also targeting developing communities in line with improving living standards, for example infrastructure development including but not limited to the construction of shopping malls, eating houses, fast food outlets and other developments to benefit local communities. The ZAI initiative is a Zimbabwean project to benefit Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans,” said Mr Bwoni.
They also engaged for advice and guidance the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA).
The team’s visit also took them to the First Lady and soon they will be knocking on more doors of power.
“We held an initial meeting with the First Lady, Dr Grace Mugabe and her support and advice was both inspirational and invaluable,” gushed Mr Bwoni.
“She commended our commitment and our desire to effectively getting involved in the development of Zimbabwe. We highlighted our mission to build long-term relations with local farmers and the whole value chain, empowering local communities.
“The First Lady provided us with very useful advice on running successful ventures as she narrated the challenges she has faced in setting up her highly successful children’s home, school and the ongoing extension of the project she is continuing to undertake.”
He said his team was encouraged by the reception they got from Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Dr Douglas Mombeshora and the Matabeleland North Resident Minister Cde Cain Mathema who welcomed the initiative with positivity.