BACKGROUND/INTRODUCTION

Since the 2000s, the amount of food and wealth produced by the Zimbabwean agricultural sector, once highly productive, has been greatly reduced. The country has become a net food importer with a large proportion of Zimbabweans relying on food aid. The structure of the agricultural system has shifted from large-scale commercial farms to small-scale farming. These farmers require support in order to strengthen food security, reduce poverty and achieve an acceptable level of agricultural production.

More over, 75% of the communal land lie in Agro ecological Regions IV and V, often near national parks or private conservancies. These regions host the poorest small-scale farmers, who need to be supported in order to participate in the national economy and adapt their strategies to the particular contexts of living at the periphery of protected areas. An important step is to promote sustainable food productions of the small-scale farmers and reduce rural household vulnerability to climatic hazards (droughts), increase their resilience to external shocks. To achieve this objective, the agricultural sector requires strong, participatory and pro-active applied agricultural and environmental research to develop and adapt.

This will be achieved through increased productivity of crops and livestock through efficient use of inputs, pest and disease control, genetic improvement; and strengthened research and extension services, among other measures. Among the areas to be addressed are the counteracting decades of underinvestment in agricultural research and development, addressing existing challenges in human resource capacity and maximizing co-operation in agricultural research and development. Thus, the need to stimulate and reinforce the Agricultural and Environmental research with a “guided by end users” approach to address pressing challenges in the Zimbabwean agricultural sector.