I was raised by a mother who farmed, and despite the fact that I then took a different career path, to this day I value farming. In fact a lot my friends around me in Diaspora were raised by parents who farmed, some of who are still out there in the rural areas, growing the very same food that nurtured us.
However, most rural farmers in Zimbabwe are having a pretty hard time of it just now, and the reasons are many. One of these reasons is lack of investment – there is no infrastructure, getting seed and fertiliser is an annual nightmare, the roads are poor, there are no storage facilities – or where these are available most have no access to them. This makes farming in Zimbabwe a tough job – not because our parents are not good at farming, but because no one is investing much in farming right now.
So where will the investment come from? Before the land reform process, most investment in agriculture was by private institutions such as Standard Bank who invested 90% of their money in agriculture. These types of investment favoured large scale commercial production focusing on cash crops. Government has also financed agriculture, and continues to do so, albeit in a limited capacity. But there is a group that can make a difference – the Zimbabwean Diaspora. With an average of US$1.6billion going to Zimbabwe in remittances annually, if even a fraction of this went into financing agriculture, it would have a sizeable impact.
Granted not all remittances are investment – a lot of the money being sent home is for consumption purposes, and mainly for the benefit of the people at home. However, if some of the money sent home was invested, it would not only benefit the people at home, but also the person sending the money. At present, most of our deposits held in bank accounts in our countries of residence in Diaspora (particularly in the west) are earning very little interest. If this money was invested back home, it would earn a higher return for the investor and also benefit the people back home who have no access to investment. In development terms, this is a win-win situation – by investing in them we meet their needs, and we meet ours.