The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has availed US$51.23 million in aid to Zimbabwe to help drought-prone smallholder rural farmers to improve access to inputs, irrigation and adopt smart farming practices in the face of the predicted El Nino induced drought.

This was revealed by the visiting IFAD President, Mr Gilbert Houngbo when he received presentations from the Ministry of Agriculture and that of Finance on strategic  interventions the new dispensation is proposing to empower rural communities to be self sustainable through agriculture.

“I heard that at the centre of the President [Emmerson] Mnangagwa’s vision 2030 is the small holder farmers who require agriculture support. We have workforce on the ground taking stock of the US$51.23 million irrigation project, more fund will be determined by the speed at which old programmes are implemented, so delivery is key,” revealed Mr Houngbo.’’

Zimbabwe’s ministers thanked IFAD for the assistance in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector and clarified areas that need priority in terms of funding.

“We welcome the huge assistance we have been receiving from IFAD since 1993. Your visit comes at a time we have a new dispensation and I am glad to inform you that we propose that areas of capacity building and creating enterprises which will curb rural to urban migration are of paramount importance if aid is to be availed. We have embarked on empowering women and youth with goats, sheep and poultry projects which we also think require fund so that people in rural areas will have sustainable wealth,” said Retired Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement.

“We have a huge number of potential farmers who are producing cabbages, tomatoes and other cash crops, and it would be welcome if IFAD can come to assist us in value addition so that our farmers establish their enterprises and create rural employment,” Cde Sithembiso Nyoni, the Acting Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

The IFAD President was impressed by the presentation and promised to continue mobilising more funds, saying the sooner the new dispensation delivers on on-going programmes like the small irrigation revitalisation project the longer the relationship will be nurtured.

Under the multi-million dollar smallholder irrigation revitalisation programme, US$25.5 million come as IFAD grant to Zimbabwe and will benefit over 27700 households.

The fund’s immediate task is the revitalisation of over 6000 hectares in 152 existing smallholder irrigation schemes in various parts of the country.