On This Day, Zimbabwe Was Ranked The World’s Fastest Growing Crop Economy in 1975 | FACT CHECK…….
16 October 2020
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Today is World Food Day, and the United Nations has released the following short statement.

The below article after some fact checking, has since been revised to measure that Rhodesia was ranked the world’s fastest growing crop economy in 1975, on all combined produces. (The previous phrase that was used, later challenged) alleges the country became the bread basket of Africa.)


Dr. Mick Gammon, a senior official in the erstwhile Rhodesian Department of Agriculture, wrote the following in the magazine The Rhosarian (October 2009):
“The first white hunters, traders and missionaries who in the 19th century came to the region which was to become Rhodesia and subsequently Zimbabwe, found a land devoid of infrastructure. The wheel was not yet in use. Early travellers recorded travelling often for days without seeing any human habitation. Commercial farming started in the 1890’s on what was for the most part virgin land. There were no roads or railways, there was no electricity or telephone, there were no fences, boreholes, pumps, windmills, dams or irrigation schemes; there were no cattle dips, barns or other farm buildings.

These first commercial farmers had to discover how to contend with predators that killed their livestock plus other animals that consumed their crops and how to control diseases, pests and parasites of livestock and crops that were foreign to them. From this starting point, agriculture developed faster than anywhere else in the world.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Year Book of 1975 ranked the then Rhodesia second in the world in terms of yields of maize, wheat, soya beans and ground nuts, and third for cotton. In the combined ranking for all these crops, Rhodesia ranked first (that is, fastest growing) in the world.

Rhodesia’s Virginia tobacco was rated the best in the world in yield and quality, while maize entries in world championships were consistently placed in the first three slots. The world’s largest single citrus producer was developed early in the country’s history.

Rhodesia was the world’s second largest exporter of flue-cured tobacco. This together with exports of maize, soya beans, cotton, sugar, coffee, tea, fruit, vegetables, flowers and beef made agriculture the major source of foreign currency. Agriculture contributed more to the gross domestic product than any other industry. It was the largest employer of labour, providing employment for about a third of the total labour force.”


The story of the destruction of Zimbabwe basically started with the tsunami of African independence as Europe abandoned its African colonies in a post Second World war haste to pacify the new nationalisms sweeping the continent. India took the lead and many were not far behind. Colonial financial and other responsibilities were unsustainable and it was at the same time easy to wash one’s hands of pesky African demands, bring down the flag and beat a hasty retreat. But Southern Africa’s substantial white populations were harder nuts to crack. A flourishing Rhodesia stood its ground through a self-declared independence and a vicious civil war where the Mugabe’s and the Nkomo’s terror triumphed with the help of a West whose prime goal was to get out as fast as they could. Where are the Harold Wilsons now? Mrs Thatcher’s Rhodesian legacy preceded a British-assisted ANC government in South Africa. And where are the British parliamentarians, churchmen and London street protestors whose efforts brought Robert Gabriel Mugabe to power?

Do they now avert their eyes at a Zimbabwean 90% unemployment rate? Are they actively helping to alleviate the hunger and poverty that their protégé Robert Mugabe’s destruction of the country’s commercial agriculture caused? Do they write to the Times about the appalling condition of the country’s hospitals and judiciary? Are they content that ideology trumped a functioning state and food on the table for all? In reality they really didn’t care who took over Rhodesia. What a strange political ideal – third world destruction preferable to first world prosperity! And the millions of Zimbabwean blacks thrown to the wolves? We don’t hear much about them in Westminster’s hallowed halls.


Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean who writes about her country. Her whimsical style and her clear love for Zimbabwe’s natural beauty is tempered by the terrible reality that is Robert Mugabe’s political Zimbabwe. Her books will remain forever a testament to Perfidious Albion and its forsaking of a wonderful land and people, the erstwhile bread basket of Africa.
Arriving back in Zimbabwe from a trip overseas, she says “going from the first world to the third world is a trip of mixed emotions, culture shocks and confusing adjustments”. On landing, “rules go out the window: queues, waiting for hours, every bag checked, scrutinized by tax collectors for anything that may yield a dollar or two”.

“Once through with the formalities, you head for the toilet where you find a door with no lock, only one of three hand basins has water, the soap dispenser doesn’t work and neither does the hand dryer”. After weeks away nothing has changed: “electricity is unlikely, water is rare but politicians are too busy to care as they scramble for positions in a silent succession war”.
“We come back to a country where it’s not unusual to see four or five people on a motorbike” she says, “and where adults and children alike bathe, fish and swim in puddles on the sides of the road.” We are back into the “system”, she declares. “Police roadblocks every ten kilometres, no water for days at a time, generators roaring in the towns and the whole nation laying its wares out on the pavements, trying to survive unemployment. Public officials don’t greet you, look at you or thank you when you go to their offices to do business. Chewing gum, talking to their colleagues or on their cell phones, they scroll up and down Facebook pages while you stand in front of them.”

The Minister of Local Government tells the population to ”make babies”, this in a country with 90% unemployment and where very few of the country’s 300 000 annual school and college graduates ever find jobs.

“Where else in the world would the Minster of Energy blame the Meteorological Department for the country’s energy crisis?” declares Cathy. Apparently “wrong predictions” were responsible for the government’s failure to plan against the low water levels in the Kariba Dam.

“Where else would the Vice President of a country stay in a luxury 5-star hotel for over 290 days with his family because ‘suitable accommodation’ has not yet been provided for him? This in a country that is broke and has an external debt of over US$ 7 billion and an internal debt of over US$ 9 billion.” (Yes, the currency is in US dollars due to the collapse of the Zimbabwean currency.)


“People queue from as early as 5 am on weekday mornings outside a local bakery. They want to buy the cheap bread – breakages, damaged loaves or misshapen loaves, below standard loaves. The cheap bread is 50c a loaf.”

“Electricity suppliers ZESA publish schedules of ‘load shedding’ indicating which times of day will be without power. The schedules are a complete waste of time because they are not adhered to. The cuts never last for the stipulated six to twelve hours – they last for seventeen or eighteen hours. For people who are trying to make a living from home doing things like baking, sewing, welding or printing, it’s impossible to keep going. In October 2015 the government’s solution to the power crisis was an announcement that all mining companies and other big industries must reduce their electricity consumption by 25% with immediate effect. Another ‘solution’ is to ban electric geysers. Will they ban water taps next?” asks Cathy.

Some children were stung by bees. The nurse at the local government clinic had nothing to treat the victims with: no pain killers, no anti inflammatories, no anti histamine. The nearest provincial hospital 14 kilometers away had had no electricity for 13 hours. By the light of a single candle, the nurse checked out the children but there was no medication to treat these casualties. A prescription was written out and the group with the children was told to go and source the injections themselves in town. The group went out into the darkness. They needed $30 to buy the medication. Someone rescued them, and a week later, one of the children regained consciousness.

Five days later in his State of the Nation speech, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe’s health sector was growing thanks to help from the Chinese.

In the meantime, dustbins have not been collected for five months. Street lights haven’t worked for eleven years. High grass grows unchecked on the verges. Blocked storm drains and piles of garbage dumped on the roadside highlight the parlous state of local ‘government’.

Economist John Robertson estimates that only 700 000 people in Zimbabwe are in formal employment and half of those employed are in the civil service, this in a country of 14 million people.