HARARE, ZIMBABWE — The government of Zimbabwe has slashed 43% of the jobs in its Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation, and Irrigation Development, according to an Aug. 24 article in Zimbabwe’s The Herald newspaper.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) implemented the recommendations that were outlined in the Civil Service Audit Report of 2015. Out of 19,235 positions in the Ministry, the PSC called for the immediate elimination of 8,252, according to The Herald.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responded to the news by saying the cuts would derail government programs to revive Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector, The Herald said.

The newspaper article noted that the abolished positions ranged from directors to provincial and district officers down to general labor.

Zimbabwe Ag Ministry Ringson Chitsiko
Ringson Chitsiko, permanent secretary in the Agriculture Ministry.

Ringson Chitsiko, permanent secretary in the Agriculture Ministry, in an Aug. 11 letter, said, “Expanded programs to revive agriculture will be seriously affected by loss of staff. These programs have long-term national benefits and should be safeguarded from short-term but short-lived benefits.”

Instead of the job cuts, Chitsiko proposed an alternative structure that would include a reduction in the number of working days for some staff, abolition of vacant posts, and retiring of all non-critical staff over the age of 60.

“We are already in the 2016-17 farming season, and we should minimize on restructuring as this could cause a lot of instability in the ministry resulting in poor service delivery,” Chitsiko said.

In an Aug. 11 Country Focus published by World Grain, Zimbabwe’s agriculture is described as being “vitally important” to the nation’s economy, but it struggles with challenges created by the country’s wider economic problems and has been hit hard by southern Africa’s drought.

The International Grains Council (IGC) projects Zimbabwe’s 2016-17 maize (corn) production at 400,000 tonnes, down from 700,000 the year before. It forecasts the country’s total grains imports at 1.1 million tonnes in 2016-17.