USAID’s Zimbabwe agricultural support programme leaves communities empowered

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED) five-year programme that began in October 2010 and will be officially closing at a colourful ceremony to be held at Tshongokwe irrigation scheme in ward 8 of Lupane in Matebeleland North province of Zimbabwe has reportedly transformed many lives and empowered formerly impoverished local communities who are engaged in self-sustaining income-generating activities.

According to Karen Kelley, USAID Public Affairs Officer, a field event will be held on 21 May, 2015 at Lupane drawing thousands of people including beneficiaries to mark the end of the five year programme under the theme: Celebrating success together-Generating wealth through smallholder commercial agriculture.

According to Kelley, since 2010, USAID’s Zim-AIED has assisted more than 150 000 smallholder farmers across 46 irrigation schemes and 50 dryland areas to increase their incomes and improve food security through increased agricultural production and commercialization.

Zim-AIED provided training and technical assistance on good agricultural practices to increase farmers’ production and yields, linked them to credit, input and output markets, trained them on business skills to run their farms as businesses.

“A key component of Zim-AIED’s implementation strategy was harnessing the ability of private sector companies to invest in systems that facilitate sustainable productivity and growth through enhanced technology transfer and improved access to credit, input and output markets,” Kelley said.

USAID reports that beneficiaries under the programme have generated $210,1 million in total sales from agricultural produce such as livestock, bananas, horticultural crops ,maize, groundnuts and sugar beans since programme inception.

“The average income per household increased from a baseline of $483 in 2012 to $1,725 per annum in 2014.Through a credit facility, Agri-Trade implemented in partnership with three private banks, Zim-AIED injected $2,5 million into the agricultural economy, which resulted in cumulative disbursements of $15,3 million,” Kelley said.

USAID also says that 50% of beneficiaries of its programme are women. This follows a defined gender integration policy were Zim-AIED provided innovative ways to enable women and youths to reach their full potential in smallholder commercial agriculture.

“The programme actively engaged farmers through its Farming as a Family Business training which promotes female and youth participation in leadership, fosters gender dialogue that increases women’s access to finance and credit and encourages female farmers to adopt new labour-saving agricultural technologies that increase productivity,” the Spokesperson said.

It is reported by USAID that at Tshongokwe irrigation where the programme closeout will be conducted, Zim-AIED provided technical assistance and training in crop and livestock interventions to improve productivity and raise the incomes of smallholders.

“The programme introduced high value horticultural crops such as table potatoes, cabbages and butternut squash through farmer managed demonstration plots. In livestock production, the organisation established fodder and feedlot demonstrations to provide training in good animal husbandry practices,” Kelley said.

Zim-AIED is reported to have also provided technical assistance and trained farmers in irrigation management, farmer organisation, marketing and business development skills.

USAID says that nearly all farmers adopted good agricultural practices seeing increased yields of sugar bean from 0,7 tonnes to 2,5 tonnes per hectare, maize from three tonnes to seven tonnes per hectare and tomato from less than five tonnes to more than 30 tonnes per hectare. Zim-AIED is also   reported to have facilitated improved relationships between farmers and government parastatals.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Joseph Made, the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton and many other dignitaries are expected to grace the closing event.

According to USAID, for more than 30 years, the American people through USAID have invested over $2,6 billion in Zimbabwe. It is reported that more than 40 projects a year include initiatives to increase food security, support economic resilience, improve health systems and services and to advance a more democratic system of governance.

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