Let’s prepare well for summer cropping season
THE ingredients are all there for a successful 2016-17 agricultural season but farmers need to start preparing now so that they are not found wanting when the time to plant their crops arrives. The Meteorological Services Department has forecast a normal to above normal rainfall season with the rains already having started lashing parts of the country.
While the MSD has cautioned against early planting, saying the current rains do not signal the start of the rainy season, farmers should ensure they have the necessary inputs and machinery to till the land. They should also get their fields ready for planting bearing in mind that the season is likely to be wet and long.
The Government has already secured $503 million for inputs, some of which are already on the ground as it intensifies preparations to ensure farmers are adequately equipped for the farming season. The inputs will boost the recently announced Command Agriculture Programme that is targeted at producing more than two million tonnes of maize and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme that mainly assists vulnerable rural and small scale farmers.
It is projected that by October 15, 2016, most of the farming inputs under Government’s Command Agriculture project should have reached all the targeted beneficiaries. Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who chairs the Cabinet Committee on Food and Nutrition together with Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made, briefed the Zanu-PF Politburo on Government’s position with regards to funding and inputs distribution during the organ’s meeting on Wednesday.
They said so far 2007 farmers have signed performance contracts under this programme (Command Agriculture) and already 5 961 hectares of irrigable land have been tilled in preparation for the season.
The Government has 980 tractors available for hire including 74 from District Development Fund and inputs on the ground include 2 750 tonnes of seed, 20 000 tonnes of lime, 4 500 tonnes of basal fertiliser, 6 400 tonnes ammonium nitrate and four million litres of diesel. Fertiliser companies have 100 000 tonnes compounds and ammonium nitrate in stock, while seed companies have 40 000 tonnes, which are enough to support Command Agriculture.
The programme aims to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares of land. 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. We are heartened by the hard work being put in by Government to ensure the success of the forthcoming farming season and urge farmers to complement its valiant efforts by fulfilling their end of the bargain. Zimbabwe desperately needs to produce enough food not only for self-sustenance but to export to the Sadc region.
It also needs to regain its breadbasket status and this can only be done through the combined efforts of Command Agriculture, small scale communal farmers and A2 farmers who have been benefiting from Government support for more than a decade.
Speaking after the Zanu-PF Politburo meeting, President Mugabe called on the nation to prepare for the season “with serious determination” and recover from losses encountered in past agricultural seasons.
The President also emphasised the need for adequate preparations noting that the 2015-16 farming season was not pleasing. He encouraged the nation to prepare with serious determination to do better this season and recover from the losses of the past two seasons. We implore farmers to heed the President’s words and work towards a bumper harvest.
In the same vein, we hail the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe’s top fertiliser manufacturing company, ZFC and its parent firm Chemplex Group by the United States government as this will boost fertiliser production ahead of the farming season. With regards to Command Agriculture, we commend Government for coming up with the scheme which is aimed at ensuring food security.
It is apparent that beneficiaries of the land reform programme have been incapacitated to produce enough to feed the nation but under Command Agriculture, farmers will have no excuse for failing to produce since everything will be availed to them. Government had set a target of 2 000 farmers to participate in the scheme and so far it has been oversubscribed demonstrating the zeal and enthusiasm it has generated in the country.
Authorities now need to move with speed to implement the programme and we implore them to put in place mechanisms to ensure that farmers meet their obligations. There should be strict supervision of selected farmers so that the scheme meets its targets. With adequate rains, there is no reason why the country cannot produce enough maize to a stock its strategic reserves. All that is needed it focus, unity of purpose and hard work to catapult Zimbabwe back to the apex of agricultural production in the region.