Zimbabwe and the International Fund for Agricultural Development on Monday signed a debt re-scheduling agreement that will result in IFAD resuming its financial support by providing $55 million under the smallholder irrigation revitalization program next year.
IFAD regional director for East and Southern Africa, Sana Jatta, who was in Harare to sign the deal said the organization, which suspended projects in Zimbabwe over a $23 million arrears, was re-engaging it in a new that deal that has seen Zimbabwe pay 10 percent of the arrears and made an undertaking to pay the remainder over a five year period.
He said the program to be funded by IFAD will rehabilitate and develop new smallholder irrigation covering 8,000 hectares and benefitting more than 20,000 households.
He said IFAD will provide more financial resources if Zimbabwe does not fall into arrears again.
Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said due to climate change government efforts to develop agriculture must focus on irrigation.
Deputy Agriculture and Mechanization Minister, Paddy Zhanda, said the agricultural sector continues to face many challenges such as lack adequate inputs and climate change.
He said resources from IFAD should be used to address these issues and ensure food security, especially in rural areas.
Tirirami Muyambo, an agricultural extension officer, with a local non-governmental organization said while he was not aware of the details of the IFAD program, irrigation was the best way to go especially for the country’s natural regions four and five.
The IFAD program will have four components, namely rehabilitation and development of irrigation infrastructure, agricultural credit, institutional strengthening and market access and business development.
Government in the meantime is expected to establish a unit that would co-ordinate the implementation of the program.
Chinamasa said the gesture by IFAD was an indication that the government’s re-engagement effort with the international community was paying off and government would do all it can to achieve full admission into the community of nations.
Zimbabwe requires long-term financing to reboot its economy but is constrained by external debts which have blocked the flow of international capital into the country.
IFAD has been operating in Zimbabwe since 1980 and cancelled its support to the country in 2006 after its defaulted on its arrears.