The Zimbabwe miracle
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CTA. 1988. The Zimbabwe miracle. Spore 16. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/44875
Zimbabwe's agricultural success over recent years has been heralded as a good example of how modern farming methods can be made to work even under Africa's traditional subsistence farmers working communally-owned land using low or no-input shifting...
Zimbabwe's agricultural success over recent years has been heralded as a good example of how modern farming methods can be made to work even under Africa's traditional subsistence farmers working communally-owned land using low or no-input shifting agriculture. Yet, after independence, when they were given the necessary resources and incentives, they were transformed into high-input, market-minded farmers with yields up to eight times those being achieved previously. The Zimbabwe miracle was made possible by making available 500 kg of fertilizer per ha, as well as providing pesticides and HYV seeds. Access to credit and loan schemes meant that even poor farmers could benefit. In 1985 yields of maize were 80% above those in 1979, and grains were being exported to neighbouring countries. Continual cultivation of the same plot of land can exacerbate soil erosion. So, on land where shifting cultivation has been the traditional mode of farming, can this level of productivity be maintained? The latest figures from the Zimbabwean Natural Resources Board show that 28% of the nation's land is severely eroded and only 53% is in moderately good condition. Furthermore, most of the land in good condition is owned by commercial farmers and many of the crops grown for commercial purposes, such as coffee, tobacco, sunflowers and cotton, afford little protection to the soil. In a sobering summing-up of the situation, H.A. Elwell of the University of Zimbabwe concludes: 'If soil erosion rates are allowed to continue at existing levels the soil over a large area of Zimbabwe will be destroyed within our lifetime. Crop failures will become the norm, water will become scarce, and most of our resources will go towards feeding a vast, starving, rural population'.