$500m agric pro­gramme mooted

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Felex Share Harare Bu­reau

GOVERN­MENT is work­ing on a $500 mil­lion com­mand agricultural pro­gramme to en­sure food se­cu­rity and maize sup­ply self-suf­fi­ciency for the next sum­mer crop­ping sea­son.

The pro­gramme — which aims to pro­duce two mil­lion tonnes of maize on 400,000 hectares of land — will see iden­ti­fied farm­ers be­ing given in­puts, ir­ri­ga­tion and mech­a­nised equip­ment.

The farm­ers, to work un­der strict su­per­vi­sion, will be re­quired to com­mit five tonnes per hectare to Govern­ment as re­pay­ment for the in­puts and agricultural equip­ment.

They will re­tain all sur­plus pro­duced for per­sonal use.

Vice Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa told jour­nal­ists in Harare yes­ter­day that Cab­i­net had, with im­me­di­ate ef­fect, tasked the Min­istries of Lands and Ru­ral Re­set­tle­ment, Agri­cul­ture, Mech­a­ni­sa­tion and Ir­ri­ga­tion De­vel­op­ment and En­vi­ron­ment, Wa­ter and Cli­mate to iden­tify farms, farm­ers and wa­ter bod­ies for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the com­mand agri­cul­ture ini­tia­tive.

“The spe­cific im­ple­men­ta­tion modal­i­ties will be worked out by the im­ple­ment­ing Govern­ment min­istries,” VP Mnan­gagwa said.

“This is meant to pro­duce maize lo­cally and re­duce grain im­ports. Of the 400,000 hectares tar­geted, at least half of that will be ir­ri­gated land, mean­ing on that one, whether or not there is drought, the land will still pro­duce. This is a na­tional pro­gramme and as such the pub­lic, pri­vate sec­tor and farm­ers must come to­gether and co­op­er­ate in the fund­ing. On the cost, we are ne­go­ti­at­ing lines of credit and we can’t dis­close those we are ne­go­ti­at­ing with.”

VP Mnan­gagwa said the pro­gramme was be­ing run from the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent and Cab­i­net and was be­ing im­ple­mented un­der the guid­ance of the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Food Se­cu­rity and Nu­tri­tion that he chairs.

“Ev­ery farmer com­ing into this pro­gramme should be a se­ri­ous farmer,” he said.

“The farm­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in this pro­gramme, whom we ex­pect to be more than 2,000, should sign a per­for­mance con­tract for three con­sec­u­tive grow­ing sea­sons com­menc­ing with the 2016-17 sum­mer sea­son. All farm­ers near wa­ter bod­ies shall be con­sid­ered. If a farmer is near wa­ter and does not want to go into the scheme, we will put him where there is no wa­ter. Only pro­duc­tive farm­ers will be spared. We are tar­get­ing those who are sleep­ing on the land.”

He added: “We are giv­ing the iden­ti­fied farm­ers equip­ment to em­power them to pro­duce the maize and we are giv­ing them in­puts; mean­ing seeds, fer­tiliser and chem­i­cals. We only de­mand five tonnes per hectare to be de­liv­ered to the Grain Mar­ket­ing Board to cover the machin­ery and in­puts.”

VP Mnan­gagwa said the de­ci­sion to em­bark on com­mand agri­cul­ture was ar­rived at af­ter a re­al­i­sa­tion that na­tional food in­se­cu­rity had risen from about 12 per­cent in 2011 to 42 per­cent this year.

The Zim­babwe Vul­ner­a­bil­ity As­sess­ment Re­port says four mil­lion peo­ple need food aid this year be­cause of an El-Nino-induced drought. “Other Govern­ment pro­grammes such as the Pres­i­den­tial In­puts Scheme will still be at­tended to,” VP Mnan­gagwa said

“Ev­ery farmer and ev­ery Zim­bab­wean is spe­cial to Govern­ment. The spe­cial pro­gramme on maize pro­duc­tion has the ad­van­tage that funds will be used lo­cally to buy in­puts and it also en­sures labour for lo­cals. We are go­ing to clamp down on cor­rupt el­e­ments through aus­tere su­per­vi­sion.”

VP Mnan­gagwa said the coun­try had enough grain in stock to cover the next five months with more im­ports ex­pected soon.

“Lo­cal pur­chases are also ex­pected to peak in the com­ing months of Au­gust and Septem­ber,” he said.

“In the mean­time, Govern­ment con­tin­ues to hon­our its com­mit­ments in en­sur­ing ad­e­quate food availability to the na­tion in the short-term through im­ports and the lo­cal pur­chases.”

Maize pro­duc­tion has de­clined in the past few years due to suc­ces­sive drought spells and er­ratic rain­fall pat­terns.

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe

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