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Zimbabwe opposition party National Democratic Party (NDP) leader and former finance minister Tendai Biti  | Coastweek

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe opposition party National Democratic Party (NDP) leader and former finance minister Tendai Biti [center] addresses the media outside the High Court in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe. The High Court on Wednesday judged that the two-week demonstration ban made by the Zimbabwean government was illegal. XINHUA PHOTOS
Zimbabwe reiterates plans to re-introduce flights to China and UK   

HARARE, (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe has once again said it plans to re-introduce flights to London and Beijing after suspending them several years ago due to financial and operational challenges besetting the national carrier.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development Munesu Munodawafa was quoted by the state-run Herald newspaper Tuesday as saying that the government was currently scouting for a strategic partner for the airline with capacity especially to resume long haul flights.

The Harare-London route is one of Air Zimbabwe’s most lucrative routes and analysts believe a direct flight between Beijing and Harare would go a long way in boosting Chinese tourists into Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe government recently gave Air Zimbabwe the approval to find a suitable strategic partner to revive its operations, and has often expressed desire to resume flights to the United Kingdom and China because of their huge potential.

“The focus is for the operator that will be able to resume the long haul drive,” Munodawafa said.

At its peak, Air Zimbabwe used to fly to over 25 regional and international destinations but is currently only flying regional routes in southern Africa due to lack of funds to modernize its fleet and pay off creditors.

It is saddled with a 300 million U.S. dollars debt, and requires a billion dollars for recapitalization, according to government.


Zimbabwean farmers embrace command agriculture
amid efforts to boost food security

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Large scale farmers in Zimbabwe are upbeat about the government-supported command agriculture program and are clamoring to prepare their land so that they could qualify for the program.

The program will support where required, with tillage and production inputs such as fertilizers, seed and chemicals and upgrading of irrigation equipment to selected farmers on a cost recovery basis.

The Office of the President and Cabinet initiated the program to curb food insecurity which had risen from 12 percent in 2011 to 42 percent in 2016.

Farmers are currently being vetted and those who qualify will be required to produce more than 5 tonnes of maize per hectare on 400,000 hectares under strict supervision from government agricultural experts.

President of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union Abdul Nyathi told Xinhua Wednesday that preparations for the new season were going on well and farmers were looking forward to the new season in light of the government’s support.

“Preparations are going on very well for both large and small scale producers. Everybody is busy ploughing the fields and this is mainly because of the command agriculture program initiated by the government and they want to get involved.

“This is very encouraging and this tells me that by the time we get to October most of them will be ready to plant, including those who have had challenges of draught power before,” he said.

He applauded the government for initiating the program, saying that many farmers who had hitherto been constricted would be able to work on their land.

So far, farmers on more than 300,000 hectares have applied to be included in the program, while many others are busy tilling the land in a bid to convince vetting officers that they will be able to deliver.

Government expects the farmers to supply the initial 5 tonnes per hectare to state grain procurer, the Grain Marketing Board, as repayment for the inputs and retain the surplus for personal use.

At least half of the land will be under irrigation.

Traditionally Zimbabwean farmers grow maize on 1.2 million hectares, which would be sufficient for the country’s food security if they only managed to achieve 2 tons per hectare, but many produce less than 0.8 tons per hectare.

Zimbabwe requires about 2 million tons annually for both human and livestock consumption but has been failing to meet its requirements.

Despite large scale farmers benefiting from the program, many communal farmers will still have problems working on their land because some of them lost cattle - a major source of draught power - during the debilitating El Nino induced drought of 2015/16.

The drought left more than 16,000 cattle dead, while some people who had enough resources to pen feed them descended on drought ravaged areas and bought the surviving cattle at very low prices.

Apart from losing the cattle, at least 4 million Zimbabweans, mostly in communal areas, currently need food aid after their crops failed.

The communal farmers with their small pieces of land do not qualify for the command agriculture program because the government is looking at farmers who can produce the maize on at least 200 hectares each.

The outlook for the large scale farmers has even been made brighter by weather experts who predicted a more favorable agricultural season for 2016/17 in terms of rains.

The government has not announced how it will fund the scheme, apart from Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying that various stakeholders will be involved.

Many farmers are therefore waiting to hear if Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa will set aside funds for the scheme when he presents his delayed mid-term fiscal policy statement on Thursday.

The agricultural season ordinarily starts in October, but the changing seasons have pushed it to around mid-November as the rains generally continue to delay.

An agriculture expert who declined to be named said if the program was implemented properly and on time, it would boost the country’s food security and turn around the fortunes of the previous season.

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