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Corruption bedevils farming inputs

[Zimbabwe] A fresh produce market in Mbare, Harare. [Date picture taken: 05/01/2006]
With inflation at almost 1,200 percent, people are turning to religion (IRIN)

An audit of an agricultural inputs programme aimed at rewarding productive farmers has unearthed cases of corrupt reselling of the aid by senior government officials and parliamentarians.

Brig-Gen Douglas Nyikayaramba, in charge of logistics of the "Champion Farmers" programme, told the official Sunday Mail newspaper that some senior ruling party officials, including eight parliamentarians, had resold the free inputs, or hired farmers to farm on their behalf with the intention of splitting the profits from harvest sales.

"We will soon reveal the names of the members of the august House who have been caught up in the scam. This is tantamount to corruption and the culprits will be charged accordingly," Nyikayaramba was quoted as saying.

The government's Champion Farmers scheme, designed to boost production, has been mired in controversy over its lack of transparency and potential for politicisation. The delays in distribution, with the rainy season well underway, have also been criticised for undermining whatever benefit could have been achieved.

A farmer in Chegutu, about 80km south of the capital, Harare, told IRIN that his maize crop was waist high and in urgent need of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, but none was in the shops and he was not a beneficiary of input aid.

"All we hear are that some of our neighbours have received fertiliser, but we don't know what criteria are being used by the soldiers to distribute the fertiliser. The lack of transparency in the whole exercise will have the effect of creating more man-made food shortages."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, for fear of victimisation, the farmer said, "It is the ordinary Zimbabwean farmer and citizen who are being affected by the corruption because the inputs are surfacing on the black market, being sold at extortionist rates."

Renson Gasela, secretary for agriculture of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur Mutambara, said anomalies in the Champion Farmer programme were not surprising, and doubted that ZANU-PF officials would be prosecuted.

"To start with, the army should not be playing an active role in the distribution of farming inputs - they are only likely to give them to their friends and a few well-connected farmers," he told IRIN.

South Africa has provided Zimbabwe with a R300 million (US$32 million) agricultural inputs package, which been distributed without an agreed monitoring mechanism involving NGOs and regional governments in place to ensure transparency, IRIN reported on 14 January.

At least 5.5 million people - over half Zimbabwe's population - are in need of food aid as a result of a series of poor harvests and an economic crisis that has robbed farmers of the ability to afford seeds, fertiliser and fuel.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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