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HARARE — The World Bank on Wednesday announced a 74-million-dollar grant to revive Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector.

“The money is 74 million dollars up from 25 million last year,” David Rohrbach, a senior agricultural economist at the World Bank, told reporters on the sidelines of an agriculture conference in the capital Harare.

The bank hopes the money will help 700,000 farmers, said Rohrbach.

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“We are dealing directly with NGOs. We are following suit with what other donors have done to help Zimbabwe. We are not yet at a stage to deal with government directly but we consult them,” he said.

The announcement came as a new report — prepared for the conference by donors and the government — said compensation had been paid for about three percent of the 6,500 white-owned farms seized under Mugabe’s land reforms.

The study said land reforms had drastically reduced the area of land under cultivation by 50,000 hectares (123,500 acres) and lands under irrigation also declined more than nine percent to 139,500 hectares.

Mugabe launched the land reforms in 2000, with at least 4,000 white farmers forcibly removed from their properties. He has defended the programme as meant to correct colonial-era imbalances.

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Black farmers resettled on the land have received little government support, while banks have been unwilling to offer them loans without legal guarantees on ownership of the land.

Production of both food and cash crops like tobacco have plunged, leaving millions of people dependent on international food aid.

Secretary for agriculture Ngoni Masoka told a media briefing at the predicted a jump in crop production this year.

“This year the preparations are much more advanced compared to last year,” he said. “Even in terms of funding, this year we are better prepared.

Mugabe in February joined former rival Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, in a unity government tasked with returning Zimbabwe to stability after years of economic ruin.

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