Harare – The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) launched an agriculture investment initiative concept in Zimbabwe on Wednesday. Known as AGRIINVEST, the initiative harnesses the opportunities created by the Zimbabwe Agricultural Investment Plan 2 (ZAIP2) as the country seeks to recover from decades of agricultural development regression and a poor agricultural policy framework. Speaking at the launch ceremony, FAO Assistant Director General Riberto Ridolfi said the purpose of AGRIINVEST is to derisk investor funds, build robust agricultural institutions, and map agricultural sector value chains that promote tailor made funding solutions for sustainable investments into Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector value chain.

Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector is yet to recover from the impact of the land reform programme, a land redistribution exercise undertook by government in 2000 to correct the country’s adopted pre-independence land imbalances. After gathering information on the idle land capacity in Zimbabwe, which the Commercial farmers Union estimates to be above 50% on commercial farms, the Zimbabwe government through its agricultural ministry initiated a national land audit in early 2018, an exercise that is yet to conclude. Speaking to on the side-lines of the event, a Zimbabwe horticulture industry representative told ENN Zimbabwe correspondent Carol Mvundura that land and agriculture are like siamese twins, and without bringing clarity to the land tenure issue, Zimbabwe’s agriculture recovery plan will remain a pipedream. 

The AGRIINVEST concept was unpacked to stakeholders by Dr Alain Onibon, a FAO Zimbabwe Country Director who challenged the Zimbabwe government to benchmark its national policies against global FAO standards to improve the country’s World Bank Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) ratings. EBA ratings are an agricultural value chain investment tool used globally by investors in choosing investable countries guided by the World Bank’s EBA indicators.

Agriculture accounts for 63% of raw materials to the Zimbabwe manufacturing sector and at a regional level, accounts for almost 70% of Africa’s employment. For Zimbabwe, industry capacity has significantly dropped over the years due to a number of economic challenges, including lack of adequate raw materials from the agricultural sector.

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 Confronted by policy challenges and country risk, Onibun said the AGRIINVEST initiative requires private sector funding, and without implementing derisk tools and a favourable policy framework, the initiative will not work.