Traditionally Zimbabwe’s farming sector was dualistic. On the one hand there was the commercial sub-sector made up of large-scale farms offering cash crops like tobacco and grain while on the other hand are the small-scale people growing food crops, especially maize. This food fed the country and there was even extra for export to other nations in the region.
The government’s land reforms dismantled the current system of land distribution and considerably harmed the commercial farming sector, which was a key source of exports and foreign exchange. It provided jobs for about 400,000 people in the countryside. The old system was designed for large-scale production and the switch to smallholder production has been lengthy and painful.
The economic crisis of recent decades has stopped substantial capital investment, and new enterprises have not quickly emerged. Agricultural production has largely suffered as a result of weak services, lack of credit, and considerable shortages of key inputs such as seeds, fertilizer and fuel. In dry areas water scarcity is a huge challenge for farmers. Productivity can be made better only through investment in agriculture water management, especially small-scale irrigation and water harvesting. Many smallholders are only just able to continue farming, and only a few in some areas have been able to set up viable enterprises.