‘Zim leads in Sadc and AU programmes’
GOVERNMENT of Zimbabwe’s Command Agriculture is a unique national food security intervention that puts the country in the lead in implementing Sadc and African Union programmes, South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Mphakama Mbete has said.
Officially opening the Mashonaland West Agricultural Show in Chinhoyi at the weekend, the South African envoy hailed the cocktail of measures Zimbabwe had put in place to strengthen the agriculture sector.
“Despite the crippling drought situation, I have noted with enthusiasm the recent initiative taken by Government to mobilise efforts to address food security in this country,” he said.
“These include the unique and newly announced Command Agricultural Scheme which is fully financed by Government.”
He said the initiative would capacitate commercial farmers to join the lucrative agricultural value chain processing sector.
Ever since the launch of the programme recently, over 500 farmers have applied to take part in the scheme and more applications are still pouring in.
At least 2 000 farmers working on about 400 000 hectares of land are expected to participate in the scheme, which is crystalised by a performance contract subsisting over three consecutive growing seasons.
It comes as Government seeks to stem national food insecurity, which now stands at 42 percent from around 12 percent in 2011.
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Report says four million people need food aid this year because of an El-Nino-induced drought.
Government has invited farmers willing to participate in the $500 million command agriculture scheme to register with Agritex officers in their areas.
The programme seeks to produce two million tonnes of maize with identified farmers being given inputs, irrigation and mechanised equipment for optimal yields.
Said Ambassador Mbete: “I would like to commend the steps being taken by Zimbabwe to be leaders in the implementation of the programmes of both Sadc and the African Union.”
Sadc is implementing the Multi Country Agricultural Productivity Programme that seeks to strengthen the key pillars of NEPAD such as technology development and dissemination and creating linkages.
The Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme being spearheaded by the African Union prioritises agriculture as a key instrument to increase food production by at least 6 percent annually.
Mr Mbete said agriculture had a central role to play in building strong economies, which worked to reduce inequalities by increasing incomes and employment opportunities for both rural and urban communities.
He said Zimbabwe had over the years been a food basket for Southern Africa and programmes such as agric shows, which he had attended, had shown that Zimbabwe had an organised agriculture sector that would soon see it reclaiming that position.
The Ambassador called on farmers to practice good farming methods such as conservation agriculture in the face of unpredictable weather patterns.
The SA envoy said ZimAsset needed to be taken a step further by prioritising value addition and beneficiation which is one of its pillars.
The Mashonaland West Agricultural Show is running under the theme “Investment and Innovation for Economic Growth”.
Mr Mbete hailed the theme as a rallying point for Mashonaland West province, Zimbabwe, Sadc region and Africa as a continent.
He said the quality of exhibits showed the country’s resilience in trying to reclaim its food basket status.
Mashonaland West province is expected to contribute 130 000 hectares of land under the Command Agriculture programme.
Minister of State Faber Chidarikire said only serious people should apply for the programme.
“We want serious people to take part in the programme who will put to good use the equipment and inputs they will get from Government. If you are not serious don’t bother to apply,” said Cde Chidarikire.
Show society chairman Mr Godfrey Mavakeni, expressed satisfaction with the number and quality of exhibits this year.
“We have seen growth in terms of the number of exhibitors and the overall quality which we hope will be fully exploited to foster linkages for the growth of their businesses,” he said.
Home Affairs Minister and Show Society patron Dr Ignatius Chombo and Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made also attended the official opening.
Tsholotsho North MP Prof Jonathan Moyo hands over textbooks, to Samahuru High School pupils
Cde Saviour Kasukuwere