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July 17, 2011

Zimbabwe military to partner with Chinese companies in agriculture

by Faith Zaba

The Zimbabwe army is now running private joint-venture companies in the agricultural and mining sectors with Chinese businessess.

In a recent interview...Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, who chairs the agricultural production companies, said the Zimbabwe Defence Forces would soon officially launch the private military companies.

“We can’t just be crybabies. We need to find innovative ways of overcoming the challenges the country is facing,” he said. “Besides empowering our farmers, besides ensuring that there is productivity and coming up with mitigatory measures that can avert conflict in our country, we are also ensuring that the country is liquid because there is a lot of money that is coming in to fund these projects from our strategic partners. We are contributing in a very big way.”

Nyikayaramba said the agricultural production companies would be operating on a commercial basis and would export their produce to the region.

“We are putting on the table in terms of the joint ventures our land and our skills — that is human resources. Our friends are coming in with the money and equipment. The joint venture is a 50% share ratio,” Nyikayaramba said. He said they would then pay a dividend to the state, which is the main shareholder.

“We decided that we were not just going to sit and watch from a distance. To us it was just going to be a recipe for disaster in future. We wanted sufficient food to be produced in the country and a solution to ensure that we are able to feed the whole population,” Nyikayaramba said.

“As you are aware — a hungry nation is an angry nation — and that can become a precursor for any potential conflict. The commanders sat down and decided that we needed to assist our farmers to  enhance production and thereby avert possible conflicts.”

He said their objective in setting up the companies was to win a war without having to fight one by making such economic interventions.

Nyikayaramba said they would target idle land which was given to farmers, who due to lack of funding were unable to fully utilise their land. In turn, the resettled families would have a stake in the joint ventures. He said the farmers would provide labour and be given a share of the profits, calculated on the basis of the value of their pieces of land.

Nyikayaramba said they were targeting areas which concentrated mainly on maize production and turning them into cotton growing farms.

Nyikayaramba said in the coming season, they were going to increase the area under cotton to 100 000 ha and then to 200 000 ha next year.

He said the other agricultural production company is a demonstration project, assisting farmers within a radius of 150 kilometres.

“We are also operating another joint venture at Chinhoyi University. There are 30 tractors, 10 combine harvesters which have just arrived from China and several planters. People think it is government mechanisation programme, but it is not. It is a private military company - a joint-venture project,” said Nyikayaramba.

Zimbabwe Independent

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