$500m agric programme mooted
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.