The United States Agency for International Development ( USAID / Zimbabwe ) on Friday launched activities to reduce poverty and improve long- term food security through increased agricultural production, improved nutrition, sanitation and hygiene.
By Edward Makuzva
USAID Mission Director in Zimbabwe, Ms Stephanie Funk said the programme will contribute more than $ 20 million over five years for assisting farmers and their families in over 60 000 households across rural Zimbabwe.
Funk added the programme will reach more than 350 000 people in good agricultural practices, linkages to markets, and training in farming as a business, access to credit, nutrition, hygiene, water and sanitation.
“We have ambitious goals that include reducing the level of poverty, increasing food and nutrition security and increasing access to clean water and improved sanitation.
“Zimbabwe’s agricultural potential is vast and achieving that, potential is essential to reduction, food security, to poverty reduction, food security, overall health and long term prosperity and growth for millions of Zimbabweans.
“These goals are ambitious and extremely challenging in part due to an inconsistent economic enabling environment that inhabits investment”, Funk said.
Funk said the two new activities are part of Obama’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, one focused on livestock and the other on crops.
She highlighted that USAID /Zimbabwe’s aims is to commercialize smallholder farms by increasing productivity, increase farmer access to markets, finance and credit facilities, introduce new technologies and management practices.
The Mission Director said the livestock program will work with 3 000 beef and 2000 dairy smallholder producers and the crop program will target 50 0000 households growing staples and pulses on dry land. A total of 7 500 households growing high – value crops on irrigation schemes.
Funk added activities are expected to increase incomes, reduce rural poverty and improve food security for families in Mashonaland East and West, Manicaland, Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland North and South.
“USAID has already achieved significant successes with previous programs, where average income per beneficiary farmer increased almost three – fold as a result of our assistance.
“ In fact many households are now earning thousands of dollars annually from the production of high – value crops such as bananas, vegetables and chili peppers.
“Collectively, over the past five years, more than 140 000 participating farmers sold crops and livestock valued at over $300 million”, Funk explained.
Meanwhile, developments expects estimate that about 80% of illness in developing countries are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.
The program will rehabilitate boreholes and create new wells in areas that desperately need access to clean, safe water and constructing latrines and provide training in good practices to facilitate better sanitation and hygiene.