The Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) was established on 1 July 1982 through the ARDA Act Chapter 18:01 and it is from this Act that the Authority derives its mandate. According to the ARDA Act, Chapter 18:01, section 18 subsections 2(a) – (d), the mandate of ARDA is:-

a)    To plan, coordinate, implement, promote and assist agricultural development in Zimbabwe;
b)    To prepare and with the agreement of the Minister, to implement schemes for the betterment of agriculture in any part of Zimbabwe;
c)    To plan, promote, co-ordinate and carry out schemes for the development, exploitation, utilization, settlement or disposition of State land; and
d)    Any other functions and duties which may be imposed upon the Authority by an enactment of Parliament.
ARDA is thus empowered to advance its mandate which is focused on the realization of an agriculture-led economic growth and development. Currently, ARDA is operating on 21 Estates, with a combined total potential arable land of 98,185ha, located in all the provinces of Zimbabwe, growing Strategic Crops that create food security in these Provinces through the employment of the communities and sale of produce to them.
All the ARDA Estates are located in Strategic Regions around the country. The Estates therefore, do not only create economic and radiant activities but also create Food Security Zones and stability in their respective provinces of operation. It is also important to note that most of the ARDA Estates are in Agro-ecological Regions 4 and 5 where annual rainfall is averages between 450mm and 650mm hence the need for sound Irrigation Infrastructure to ensure meaningful cropping.

Due to funding constraints over the years, this has seen the dilapidation of the irrigation infrastructure, machinery and equipment. Some of the Irrigation Schemes are as old as 40-50 years. Other challenges that ARDA, like any other farmer, has been experiencing include and are not limited to:-
•    Expensive inputs, in particular fertilizers and seed;
•    Late payment of grain delivered to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB);
•    Unreliable power supply resulting in disruption of irrigation cycles;
•    Unsustainable  water and electricity tariffs for the agricultural sector; and
•    Continued absence of medium to long-term cheaper Finance for its Agricultural Operations due to limited lines of credit and banks lending expensive short instead of medium to long-term cheap finance. Such situation is compounded by the present cash squeeze and limited lines of credit. Any received short term working capital support from banks has always fallen far short of the Authority’s requirements;
The effect of all these challenges has been translated into an ever decreasing performance by Estates and ultimately the Authority. Amid the above challenges, the Authority has for the past 11 years, not fully utilised its Land Resources and currently only 10,879ha is being used for various Cropping Programmes whilst 24, 507ha is under Cattle Ranching compared to the total hectarage of 124,254ha.

As a result of the above challenges, the Authority has since, 2009, been engaging Strategic Public/Private Partners to revive operations at all its distressed Estates. Of the 21 Estates, eighteen (18) are now under various forms of partnerships as the Public-Private Sector Partnership (PPP’s) Approach sets in.  

The Partnerships have not only enhanced the Authority’s Capacity Utilization of the Estates but also benefited the Local Community and the Nation at large. Some of the immediate benefits to the Authority and the Communities include the following:-

•    Timeous provision of adequate inputs, additional Working Capital, and the required CAPEX to purchase new Machinery, Equipment and Implements, rehabilitate Irrigation and other Estate Infrastructure;
•    Estates’ Infrastructure Rehabilitation and/or Development;
•    Establishment of vibrant Out-grower Schemes, administratively managed by the Projects/Core Estates (e.g. Chisumbanje, Antelope, Ngwezi and Doreen’s Pride Estates’ Out-grower Schemes);
•    Guaranteed market for all the produce and returns from the Estates/Projects;
•    Skills transfer through Synergistic Employment of all ARDA Staff seconded to these Projects;
•    Timely payment of the Estates Employees’ salaries and wages as well as settling of  Legacy Staff Costs in some cases;
•    Food security to the local communities and contribution towards the National Food and Nutrition Security;
•    Social and Economic Infrastructure Development in the respective communities;
•    Employment creation to thousands of the Rural Folk; and
•    Creation of a strong and sustainable base for the Value Addition Industry.

The Strategic Partnerships are resulting in increased revenue inflows to ARDA from either Royalties, Net Margin Share or Dividends and halting of increased Loss Making Estates. This should, in the nearest future see ARDA moving from a loss to profit making position.

I wish to record my profound gratitude to the Board and Parent Ministry for their guidance. I also thank Management and Staff at Head Office, Estates, Projects and Subsidiaries for their hard work and continued support.