Zimbabwe and poverty: How Zimbabwe can be developed

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  • One key to fighting poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating agricultural growth through investment in basic infrastructure, writes Blessing Mafudza.

By Blessing Mafudza

ZIMBABWE is one of the countries who used to have some of the best health and education statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, political and economic crises in recent years have exacerbated poverty and brought with it a host of social problems. It has been alleged that it is between 1990 and 2003 the poverty rate rose from 25 % to 63%.

Deterioration of infrastructure has isolated rural communities and led to a high poverty rate in these rural areas. This isolation has also contributed to a decrease in farm income and production as a result of inaccessibility to markets.

As such, food shortages in the country are rising. HIV infection, though declining, remains at 18 percent, the currency is characterized by inflation also the currency being one of the highest rates of infection in the world, the roads also have deteriorated vehemently.

Nonetheless, the poor had to adapt to new strategies in order to survive and earn a living after the experienced starvation over the years, many of the jobs done in Zimbabwe to earn a living are immoral jobs and some are illegal and these include prostitution, gold-panning, selling firewood and selling vegetables or other produce in the informal sector.

The young ages of children are now leaving school behind in order to take care of their families, some have also been forced onto the streets to supplement family incomes, in some cases, and this has given rise to the street-kid phenomenon that has plagued other African countries (Kaseke, 1993).

In a bid to overcome the situation some nongovernmental organizations and churches have tried to overcome the poverty through donations of food and fertilizer especially to rural areas.

It is reasonable to suggest that these short-term intervention strategies were implemented purely on humanitarian grounds, some critics claim that political expediency was the major motivating factor as they were donating to the people in order to scope votes and some authorities even took the on the situation to gain popularity or to win elections (Moyo, 1995).

Whatever the case may be, the Government also introduced the Social Dimensions of Adjustment Programme in 1991 as an attempt to cushion the negative effects of ESAP on the poor. Having realized the inadequacies of this strategy, the Poverty Alleviation Action Plan (PAAP) was implemented in 1994 with the main objective of broadening the overall scope, coverage and impact of targeted social programmes (UNICEF, 1994).

SAPs instead of reducing poverty they have have resulted in high social costs since they undermine access to quality and affordable public services due to government cuts in services like health and education, and they often involve the reduction of food subsidies and a decline in wages, affecting vulnerable populations in particular.

It is therefore necessary at this stage to offer a brief appraisal of some of the plans or programmes which were aimed at poverty reduction and employment As a result of the poverty in Zimbabwe, which is concentrated in the Matabeleland North where 70 percent of inhabitants are classified as poor, migration of male heads-of-household has increased the number of female-led families.

Since women typically have less access to economic opportunity and credit, these households are incredibly disadvantaged, as many of them are also in arid areas without irrigation.

Before independence and the shift towards smallholder agriculture in the country, Zimbabwe relied upon two sectors of agriculture: large scale commercial cash crops and small scale food production. But land reforms by the government have forced a transition to small scale agriculture across the board, which has led to much unemployment and a difficult changeover process.

Capital investment is almost nonexistent in Zimbabwe because of sanctions and economic crises, further hindering economic growth.

One key to fighting poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating agricultural growth through investment in basic infrastructure.

In Zimbabwe farming is popular and many citizens are farmers, nearly 40 percent of the country’s roads are in poor condition; fixing them will provide rural areas with better access to water, seeds, fertilizer and other basic agricultural supplies. Such a move would also give the country’s farmers better access to markets.

Other infrastructure investments along this line could include irrigation systems, water sanitation, and railway access.

Like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe needs to become more politically and economically stable if any progress is to be achieved in the region and transparency in the government is needed since corruption is also one of the reasons why there is poverty in the country as state funds are embezzled and abused a few individuals while the majority population suffers.

Ultimately, if political stability is achieved there, new investments in infrastructure could be made, stimulating economic growth and helping to decrease poverty rates. Western markets could also begin to reap the benefits of raw materials from one of the most resource-rich regions in the world.

Blessing Mafudza
  • About the author: Blessing Mafudza is a reading towarda Masters degree at the University of Zimbabwe.■

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