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An agricultural development programme run by the US government in Zimbabwe will reach its end this week

Wallace Mawire USAID Zimbabwe agricultural programme draws to close1Zim-AIED has helped farmers secure loans to develop their businesses. (Image source: USAID/Flickr)

The five-year Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED), which has been run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) since October 2010, will officially close at a ceremony in Lupane tomorrow.

The event, which will be attended by Zimbabwean agriculture minister Joseph Made and US Ambassador Bruce Wharton, will be held at the site of Tshongokwe irrigation scheme in Zimbabwe’s northern Matebeleland province, drawing attention to the work the project has done to empower local communities by providing sustainable income sources.

USAID’s Karen Kelley said the event, which will take place under the theme ‘celebrating success together - generating wealth through smallholder commercial agriculture’, will draw thousands of people to celebrate the 150,000 smallholder farmers the scheme has assisted since its inception.

Zim-AIED provided training and technical assistance on good agricultural practices and business skills, provided access to credit and markets, with almost all farmers involved reporting higher productivity.

On average, sugar bean yields increased from 0.7 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes per hectare, maize from three tonnes to seven tonnes per hectare and tomatoes from less than five tonnes to more than 30 tonnes per hectare.

“A key component of Zim-AIED’s implementation strategy was harnessing the ability of private sector companies to invest in systems that facilitate sustainable productivity and growth, through enhanced technology transfer and improved access to credit, input and output markets,” Kelley explained.

USAID reports that the programme’s beneficiaries have generated more than US$210mn from the sale of their produce, including livestock, bananas, maize, groundnuts and sugar beans since 2010.

“The average annual income per household increased from a baseline of US$483 in 2012 to US$1,725 in 2014,” said Kelley.

“Through a credit facility Agri-Trade implemented in partnership with three private banks, Zim-AIED injected US$2.5mn into the agricultural economy, which resulted in cumulative disbursements of US$15.3mn.”

USAID also said that 50 per cent of beneficiaries were women, following a defined gender integration policy under which Zim-AIED provided innovative ways to enable women and youths to reach their full potential in commercial agriculture.

“The programme actively engaged farmers through its ‘Farming as a Family Business’ training, which promotes female and youth participation in leadership, fosters gender dialogue that increases women’s access to finance and credit and encourages female farmers to adopt new labour-saving agricultural technologies that increase productivity,” the spokesperson said.

According to USAID, more than US$2.6bn has been invested in Zimbabwe by the US over the last 30 years, funding around 40 projects a year such as initiatives to increase food security, support economic resilience and improve health services.

Wallace Mawire