When Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed office as president of Zimbabwe in late 2017, one of the immediate tasks he had was to rebuild an economy that had performed poorly for nearly two decades. At the heart of this process was a need for revitalisation of the agricultural sector, which collapsed after the ill-conceived land reform policies in the early 2000s. To this end, Mnangagwa’s administration leaned on the Command Agriculture programme — a specialised farmer support programme that provides farming inputs and equipment to smallholder farmers — which was already championed by Mnangagwa when he was deputy president of Zimbabwe. The programme did yield some level of success (although good weather conditions also deserve some credit here), as the country’s maize harvest reached 2.2-million tonnes in 2017. This was the biggest maize harvest since 2000. However, it was an expensive programme, and it was clear that the government might not be able to sustain it for long. At some point, the...

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