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IFAD launches US$67.43mn investment programme for small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced support for a new US$67.43mn investment programme that aims to increase rural incomes for 78,000 vulnerable rural households in Zimbabwe by sustainably transforming the small-scale farming sector

The Smallholder Agriculture Cluster Project (SACP) will increase productivity and household incomes by increasing farmers’ participation in market-oriented and climate-smart value chains. It will provide technical assistance; matching grants and infrastructure investments to agricultural production groups, rural micro-enterprises and value chain lead enterprises that can take advantage of improved access to assets and opportunities for agricultural production and income-generating projects. At least 50% of the beneficiaries will be women and 30% youth.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience.

SACP will be implemented in five provinces – Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Midlands and Matabeleland North, where it will target key urban-rural agricultural production and food trading corridors to increase the role of small-scale farmers and private sector.

Agriculture underpins Zimbabwe’s economic growth, food security and poverty reduction strategies. A decade ago, the sector accounted for about 20% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but this has since declined to about 10% in recent years, with 70% of the population depending on agriculture for their livelihood. Small-scale farmers play a critical role in the sector, as they own majority of the agricultural land.

Unfortunately, frequent droughts, low and erratic rainfall, intermittent floods and the current COVID-19 pandemic have affected productivity. This has exposed millions of people to poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, making the country a net importer of food and among the top 10 most fragile countries in the world.

The Government of Zimbabwe has implemented several development projects to revive the economy, but more needs to be done to boost the agriculture sector and provide sustainable livelihoods to vulnerable poor people in rural areas. 

“We have an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of rural Zimbabweans, by investing in the small-scale farmers who dominate the sector, and can play a key role in job creation and addressing food and nutrition insecurity in the country,” said Jaana Keitaanranta, IFAD country director for Zimbabwe.

IFAD has financed the project with a loan of US$35.69mn. US$8.8mn is provided through domestic co-financing, which includes US$4.6mn from the Government of Zimbabwe and US$4.2mn from the beneficiaries themselves. Additional co-financing of US$15mn will be provided by the OPEC Fund for International Development and US$7.2mn from private sector.

Participants of the project will also benefit from improved access to irrigation water, domestic water supply and rehabilitated roads that will facilitate the commercialisation of small-scale agriculture and attract the private sector.