On many occasions I have heard Zimbabweans justify their lack of involvement in farming with the excuse that we can’t all be farmers.
However, I find this excuse absurd considering that the nation is not producing enough food to feed itself and it doesn’t seem to have the foreign currency to import food.
Surely, under such dire circumstances, the focus of every citizen should be providing their families the primary needs of food before rushing to be hungry accountants, lawyers, doctors, actuaries, marketers and tobacco farmers who live off US GM food aid and similarly toxic food imports from Brazil and South Africa.
Comparative Advantage Textbook Argument
When I raise this argument many are quick to suggest that if a nation is productive and earning enough foreign currency, it shouldn’t have to focus on diminishing return activities like farming because it can buy food from less developed [agricultural] nations.
Clearly these people don’t realize that the Netherlands is a very advanced economy that is the second biggest exporter of agricultural produce to the tune of $90bil every year.
Moreover, Zimbabwe is not producing or earning enough foreign currency from high return activities to import enough food. Which is why in our misaligned priorities, citizens are hungry while producing record levels of tobacco.
As a nation we have become reliant on food aid from the same countries that have the country under economic sanctions while amassing useless paper money.
Theory VS Real World Practice
So if the theory of industrialized nations specializing on high return activities and not needing to grow food was valid. A super power like the United States would not be the leading exporter of agricultural products because it has the most advanced technology, manufacturing, oil and military industries to earn it enough rent to import food from others.
However, this super power is the leading agricultural food producer in the world because they are too smart to rely on other nations to feed them. They clearly understand the imperative of self sufficiency and food being the foundations of any leading economy and national security.
That’s before the fact that they also use food as a weapon, giving them first hand insight on the national security vulnerabilities of a nation that is not food self sufficient.
Something Hitler also understood well hence he kept emphasizing the fact that if Germany was going to be a global leader, it would need to find new lands to conquer in Europe, to focus on agriculture and building the rest of the economy upon it.
German Food Vulnerability
The problem came in that the Germans took too long to act on this epiphany and so when the allies decided to drag them into a war aimed at destroying Germany’s banking and industrial autonomy. They simply blockaded German food, oil and raw material imports.
Even though Germany was the most industrialized country in the world at the time, exporting more machinery and tools than any other. All her foreign currency reserves and gold were of no use when she couldn’t import wheat, meat, oil, cotton and agricultural raw materials because of the embargoes.
As a result Germany was forced to invade Poland and Austria to access land for farming, which pushed it into a war in which she was defeated by the Anglo, American alliance due to food and raw material shortages as planned.
By the end of the war Germany had no more foreign currency due to war expenditure and oil imports. It’s own currency was suffering the highest hyper inflation ever seen in the world. Germans were hungry and it’s suggested in some quarters that the allies deliberately let more than 2mil Germans die of hunger to cull their numbers.
A result that led to this once proud industrialized nation becoming an Anglo American colony that now has thousands of US soldiers and bases on its soil today. All this began in many ways with Germany having compromised food security.
This same compromise is Zimbabwe’s quagmire as most Zimbabweans would rather be NGO directors, lawyers, accountants, lab technicians, tobacco farmers and colonial administrators for multi-national companies without knowing where their next meal will come from.
With our advanced degrees, skilled labor and human talent that we export across the world. As a nation we are unable to produce our own food because we focus on cutting down trees to produce premium tobacco instead of food.
Now vast portions of our people have to rely on GM imports and US stock feed as food aid to feed themselves.
The impact of these imports and food aid are not yet known, but we can correlate these with our foreign currency shortages, growing health problems, rising public healthcare demands, importations of medicines which lead to externalization of national savings by people seeking foreign healthcare due to the rising disease burden emanating from eating industrially produced donor food and synthetics.
The consequence is lower investment into productive sectors of the economy as foreign currency and savings are spent on food, healthcare and medical related imports. In the process eroding capital accumulation and national pride, tarnishing our national image as the nation is seen as a basket case.
No Priority Given To Agriculture
As much as the drought, the loss of organic seeds to biotech hybrids which force farmers to purchase expensive seeds every season that when compounded by sanctions on fertilizers and chemical prices, makes our farm produce more expensive and unattractive sectors for business.
The biggest factor is our government and citizens like post world war Germany have not prioritized food production as a major national security imperative.
As a result we are all waiting for someone born to be a farmer to rise up and sacrifice to feed the nation. Some believe the solution is to bring back white commercial farmers who left for Zambia, forgetting that those farmers are receiving Zambian government aid from grants coming from the EU because Zambia has prioritized farming and food self sufficiency.
Even our government used to give those same white farmers subsidies and assistance that connected black landholders and Zanu PF cadres depleted without consequence by misusing land, fuel, seeds and bank loans given for farming in the previous Command Agriculture programs.
All of which is a consequence of government and citizens not prioritizing farming and not caring about national resources.
Who Must Be Farming To Feed Others
This is why now we have to ask the question: does Zimbabwe need people born to be farmers to produce food for the nation? Was anyone born to be a specific trade or profession or did we all learn trades in areas we saw a gap to sell our labor for survival?
Today many people have gone into nursing even though that was not their destined vocation because it’s easier to sell those skills in Europe. So is it not a natural progression for us to learn to farm competitively for our national survival?
By not prioritizing farming, are we not repeating the folly of Germany and many other countries that disposes us to be captives of food donor nations and exporters of toxic food? Especially when we consider that the same nations have us under economic sanctions to kill our self-sufficiency to foster dependency?
Great Zimbabwe Was Self Sufficient
There was a time not too long ago in our history when every household in MaDzimbabwe produced food for itself. This was before slavery and colonialism separated Africans from their land and wealth.
The colonialist killed our ancestors to stop them farming and our ancestors fought back for the right to farm because food self-sufficiency was paramount to them.
Self-sufficiency was a trait synonymous with most African kingdoms because everyone had land and they used it to produce for family and nation. Up until individualism, servitude and dependency were imprinted into our spirits through deprivation of land and minerals and the establishment of slavery education.
As part of restoring our legacy, we need to remind the Zimbabwean mind that the first responsibility of every family is to produce enough self-sustenance in the same way every family cooks for itself every night. We must wean ourselves from a money focus to a needs orientation.
In other words we need to recognize as a nation that food production and problem solving production is not an option but an obligation to ensure food security and dignity for the nation.
Investment In Agriculture Systems
As part of this program each family or families must group together with their diaspora members to invest in community traditional seed banks, boreholes, dams and water harvesting to ensure that they have enough water to irrigate their gardens as a response to droughts and climate change.
Government should assist those poor communities with traditional seed preservation, cooperative irrigation schemes and extension workers to give communities access to water, fields, skills and seeds to farm efficiently.
As a nation we must also develop an organic farming program to substitute imported seeds and fertilizers with organic seeds and natural fertilizers to protect our soils, environment and heirloom seeds.
Command Agriculture Must Protect The Nation
Schemes like command agriculture should not be implemented just to create opportunities for our politicians to loot government coffers through the supply of exorbitantly priced imported western chemicals and fuel.
Instead it must focus on getting the nation self-sufficient and food secure by farming to feed the nation, establishing import substitution, reestablishing agro-processing, striving to cut costs by reducing input purchase to reuse through organic food production to raise a healthy nation.
This will drastically reduce farming costs, improve national health, in the process reducing healthcare and farming costs as Zimbabwean agriculture becomes productive and competitive again.
The result will be farming becoming more attractive and fashionable again as profits rise and the nation begins to be less reliant on importing food.
We Must All Prioritize Agriculture
To get to this point the first step is every Zimbabwean realizing the need to farm to provide for their families as our people have done for centuries.
Historically we exported our agricultural produce. It was used to provision Arab and Portuguese ships, and when white settlers arrived hunting for gold, they bought their food from our forefathers until they realized the difficulty of finding gold and how lucrative agriculture was.
From there they took land, collecting hefty pole taxes of as much as £1 per homestead, stealing our ancestors livestock to fund the Bulawayo to South Africa railway line and to start businesses like Meikles enterprise.
We Were Self Sufficient
So lucrative was our forefathers agricultural economy that it built Rhodesia, giving the BSAC taxes to steal more land and set up a bank specifically for farming in 1907 to commercialize white agriculture.
By the time we got independence in 1980, Rhodesia had less than 4000 white, black, Indian and colored graduates. In this quota were accountants, engineers, doctors, marketers, lawyers, scientists and auditors.
Meaning most of the people driving the Rhodesian economy were mainly farmers, their workers, domestic workers, agric-processors, transporters, miners and a lesser extent manufacturers.
With this it’s important to remember that 80% of our people soon after independence lived in the rural areas. Each rural family farmed, hence even out of barren unserviced reserves they produced 61% of our cotton, 54% of the beef, 53% of the maize, our ground nuts and almost all our small grains.
This was the renowned breadbasket that can be linked all the way to MaDzimbabwe.
How We Lost Our Self Sufficiency
It’s only when we educated a generation of people to be slaves, indentured labor and administrators in white factories away from the land, that we started having a shortage of food.
At some point we as Zimbabweans have to recognize that agriculture was the bedrock of the Mutapa Empire and Rhodesian economy. It is the bedrock of the American and Dutch economies and needs to become the bedrock of our new economy once again.
A nation is driven by farmers and a nation will die without farmers. Let the German example and the fact that it’s a US colony today because of not prioritizing agriculture always remain in our minds.
A nation of accountants, actuaries, robotics engineers, doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, strategists and project managers is a nation that can’t leverage those skills if they are hungry. It’s also a nation that will never have the respect of other nations because it can’t feed itself.
From today let each of us put our hands up to farm and feed at least our families first and by so doing the nation. If we can all cook our meals every night, we should be willing to farm our meals too.
Farming is life and life is the nation.
By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare. A message endorsed and advanced in the fight against US war sanctions by #ZUAUWS