Joseph Made at his wild guessing games about agriculture again
Posted by CM on March 17, 2008
Mugabe minister Joseph Made is a man given to making sweeping statements. Several years ago, as then agriculture minister, he took a helicopter trip around the country and on that basis declared the country was about to enjoy a bumper maize harvest. The maize deficit that resulted and has continued every year since then earned Made much scorn and derision.
He now has the grand title of minister of Agricultural Engineering, Mechanisation and Irrigation. His portfolio may have changed, but not his penchant for wild, optimistic guessing games.
Every gambit by the Mugabe government to revive agriculture over the last eight years or so has been a disastrous failure. Now, two weeks before a crucial election, Made predicts the electioneering tactic of parceling out recently imported agricultural machinery will achieve what every other action of the Mugabe government has failed to do.
From The Herald of March 17:
THE distribution of various farming implements last week under Phase 3 of the mechanisation programme, coupled with the machinery distributed under phase 1 and 2, will have the net effect of increasing production by no less than 50 percent in the short term.
Agricultural Engineering, Mechanisation and Irrigation Minister Dr Joseph Made said this would, however, depend on the effective use of the equipment, especially tractors.
A total of 500 tractors were distributed under Phase three while 1 200 tractors were distributed under phase 2 and 925 under phase one giving a cumulative figure of 2 625 tractors distributed so far.
Dr Made said if the tractors are used at the right time and in the right manner the yield capacity could go up to as much as 100 percent or 200 percent. The yield per unit for a small farmer receiving assistance from the District Development Fund, he said, should be around 200 percent.
Dr Made said if fertilizer availability improves, the yield capacity could go up by as much as 400 or 500 percent. “I am talking about sufficient quantities of proper base fertilizers, top dressing fertilizer, herbicides, pest control chemicals,” he said.
He added that the increase in production was also dependent on proper care and maintenance of the equipment. This, he said, could be achieved if farmers stick to periodic maintenance instructions prescribed by the manufacturers. “If all farmers are able to do this we will only start thinking about a major massive service after five years,” he said.
Given such a scenario, Dr Made said, production capacity in the next five years could surpass 1 000 percent.
I get the distinct impression the man is just throwing around whatever figures come to his mind! Without any context or details he predicts agricultural productivity will go up by huge, conveniently nice round numbers.
It is good for farmers to get farmers and other farm equipment. Unfortunately, there are so many factors working against their success that the equipment is unlikely to lead to anywhere near the kind of productivity increases Made daydreams about. Made actually gives hints of this by all the “ifs” he qualifies his predictions with.
“If” used at the right time, “if” fertiliser is made available, “if” the equipment is properly maintained, and so on.
Diesel is neither widely nor easily available so it is not a simple matter to use one’s tractor “at the right time.” Fertiliser and other inputs have not been affordably and widely available for close to ten years now, and as the forex crunch continues, there is no reason to believe that this situation will change any time soon. Maintenance of any equipment in Zimbabwe is hard because of the expense and difficulty of getting service items like oil and air filters, so it is a safe bet that many of these tractors will simply be run un-serviced until they quit.
The way Made expresses himself makes it quite clear that he is aware of all this.
The equipment being parceled out and all the other ad hoc agricultural measures are being tried when there is so much that is fundamentally wrong with the economy that they will largely go to waste. Once again we have evidence of how things have deteriorated to a stage where band-aid measures are no longer enough and a wholesale, surgical renewal operation is required.