ZNA em­braces farm­ing

Agri­cul­ture is the most sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic sec­tor as it has the po­ten­tial to rapidly ad­dress poverty and hunger that any coun­try might face.

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/Crossword & Cartoons - Tal­ent Chimu­tam­bgi Re­view Cor­re­spon­dent

THIS was re­vealed by Com­man­der of Ar­tillery Brigade, Bri­gadier Gen­eral Stan­ley Man­gena in his ad­dress to mark the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony of 51 uni­formed forces who re­cently com­pleted Mas­ters Farm­ers Course at Dom­boshava Na­tional Train­ing Centre on the out­skirts of Harare.

Among the grad­u­ate farm­ers, 49 were mem­bers of the Zim­babwe Na­tional Army (ZNA) drawn from dif­fer­ent units and for­ma­tions across the ZNA, and two from the Zim­babwe Repub­lic Po­lice (ZRP).

Brig Gen Man­gena said the grad­u­a­tion has ac­com­plished the vi­sion of ZNA Com­man­der Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Philip Va­le­rio Sibanda of pre­par­ing and equip­ping uni­formed forces with the pre-req­ui­site skills to sus­tain them­selves and the coun­try af­ter re­tire­ment.

He said the grad­u­ate farm­ers should strive to re­in­force ro­bust eco­nomic growth and bring mean­ing­ful changes through im­ple­ment­ing the knowl­edge they ac­quired at the train­ing col­lege.

“Agri­cul­ture is the cor­ner­stone of the coun­try’s econ­omy. The Zim­babwe Na­tional Army is work­ing flat out to en­sure that Zim­babwe re­tains its bread bas­ket sta­tus in Africa through im­ple­ment­ing gov­ern­ment pro­grams which are aimed at tack­ling food in­se­cu­rity in the coun­try.

“There is need to rev­o­lu­tionise agri­cul­ture to elim­i­nate hunger. We should be at the epi­cen­tre of the coun­try’s ef­forts to end food in­se­cu­rity,” he said.

He spoke of the army was in­volved in var­i­ous pro­duc­tion ini­tia­tives apart from mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.

“Cur­rently the Zim­babwe De­fence Forces is in­volved in the con­struc­tion of schools and clin­ics as well as hu­man­i­tar­ian work of re­mov­ing land­mines along our coun­try’s borders planted by the bru­tal Ian Smith regime to in­hibit free­dom fight­ers from cross­ing into our neigh­bour­ing coun­tries to re­ceive mil­i­tary train­ing.

“We need to come to­gether and re­alise that we are un­der siege through the il­le­gal eco­nomic sanc­tions and we need to tackle all the prob­lems we face head-on by sup­port­ing Gov­ern­ment pro­grammes such as Com­mand Agri­cul­ture and the Pres­i­den­tial In­puts Sup­port Scheme that are meant to bring eco­nomic re­vival,” he said.

Dom­boshava Na­tional Train­ing Centre has be­come a cra­dle for the best farm­ers in the uni­formed forces since the in­tro­duc­tion of the Mas­ters Farm­ers’ Course in 2000 dur­ing the pe­riod of the then Com­man­der of Ar­tillery Brigade, Rtd Ma­jor Gen­eral Ether­ton Shungu.

Rtd Maj Gen Shungu re­alised that most mem­bers who ac­quired farms through the Land Re­form Pro­gramme lacked the tech­ni­cal know-how to suc­cess­fully carry out farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

He col­lab­o­rated with Dom­boshawa Train­ing Centre to en­rol mil­i­tants to ac­quire the req­ui­site knowhow in farm­ing.

Brig Gen Man­gena said the Master Farm­ers pro­gramme which is be­ing spear­headed by Head­quar­ters Ar­tillery Brigade was in line with the vi­sion of the com­man­der of ZNA Lt Gen Sibanda which has seen eight groups so far grad­u­at­ing since its in­cep­tion.

“It is im­por­tant to note that the course is in ac­cor­dance with the Com­man­der Zim­babwe Na­tional Army Train­ing Di­rec­tive es­pe­cially in prepa­ra­tion and equip­ping of­fi­cers and men with the pre­req­ui­site knowl­edge af­ter re­tire­ment,” he said.

Prin­ci­pal Agri­cul­ture Ex­ten­sion Spe­cial­ist in the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Mech­a­ni­sa­tion and Ir­ri­ga­tion Devel­op­ment sta­tioned at Dom­boshava Na­tional Train­ing Col­lege, Mr Smith Ny­at­sande nar­rated how the pro­gramme started.

“Com­rade Shungu (Rtd Maj Gen Shungu) con­sulted the col­lege staff in 2000 af­ter he dis­cov­ered that most of the uni­formed forces who re­tire from var­i­ous Gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions will be des­ti­tute when they re­tire.

“He in­vited the col­lege staff to Head­quar­ters Ar­tillery Brigade to ad­dress sol­diers on the var­i­ous cour­ses we of­fer, both long and short farm­ing cour­ses. Sol­diers then chose the two-year Master Farm­ers Course,” said Mr Ny­at­sande.

He said the course was de­signed to equip of­fi­cers with the ba­sic knowl­edge and skills of farm­ing and boost pro­duc­tion in the coun­try, adding the cer­tifi­cates were recog­nised both within and out­side in coun­tries like Botswana where grad­u­ate farm­ers were be­ing ap­pointed fore­men in line with the knowhow they have.

Speak­ing at the same oc­ca­sion, Mr Ny­at­sande told the grad­u­ates the im­por­tance of the course.

“The course was de­signed to raise the level of com­pe­tence in farm­ing meth­ods, hence you were equipped with the ba­sic knowl­edge of crop and an­i­mal hus­bandry which you will im­ple­ment in your farms and plots availed to you by the Gov­ern­ment through the Land Re­form Pro­gramme.

“We will be mocked by other coun­tries if we are a famine dom­i­nated coun­try. I can say we will con­tinue to churn out prod­ucts with real knowhow,” he said.

He added that farm­ers should be equipped with knowl­edge so that they fol­low the chang­ing weather pat­terns.

One of the grad­u­ates, Mrs Mercy Katuka, ap­plauded the ZNA Com­man­der for such an ini­tia­tive, say­ing the skills and knowl­edge she ac­quired dur­ing the the course would go a long way in en­hanc­ing her farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties at her farm in Mvurwi.

“I want to thank the Com­man­der of the Zim­babwe Na­tional Army Lt Gen Sibanda for sup­port­ing such a cru­cial pro­gramme. We have at­tained the req­ui­site knowl­edge here at the col­lege which in­clude crop pro­duc­tion, live­stock pro­duc­tion, api­cul­ture (bee keep­ing), crocodile keep­ing, and fish pro­duc­tion.

“I have a 30-hectare farm in Mvurwi which I wasn’t fully util­is­ing but now I can con­fi­dently say that with the knowl­edge we gained here I will do won­ders at my farm,” she said.

Mrs Katuka pledged that she would par­tic­i­pate ac­tively in the Com­mand Agri­cul­ture pro­gramme to com­bat hunger, adding she will use the skills she ac­quired to as­sist other farm­ers in her area.

She said she was in­ter­ested in honey pro­duc­tion.

“Honey pro­duc­tion re­quires low cap­i­tal. Again honey has sev­eral uses which in­clude mak­ing of wax which pro­duces floor and shoe pol­ish, it has a high nu­tri­tional value and it is used to add en­ergy to the old age,” said Mrs Katuka.

An­other grad­u­ate, Mr Brighton Masamba said the course has made him a bet­ter farmer.

“Dur­ing the train­ing I learnt that farm­ing re­quires plan­ning, and plan­ning re­quires time.

“If you want to be a suc­cess­ful farmer you need to plan in time, but now I can boast that I am now an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in re­turn­ing Zim­babwe to its bread bas­ket sta­tus,” he said.

Ar­tillery Brigade Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer Ma­jor Peter Mhatiwa said the course was de­signed to ben­e­fit uni­formed forces for­ever, adding that the knowl­edge be­ing ac­quired at the col­lege res­onates with the chang­ing weather pat­terns.

“There is cer­tain level of com­pe­tence and skill that farm­ers should have which are in line with new tech­nol­ogy.

The way these sub­jects are taught should pre­pare farm­ers for self-re­liance. The aim is also to pre­pare farm­ers for life and work in an in­di­genised econ­omy and com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment and en­sur­ing farm­ers demon­strate knowl­edge and skill nec­es­sary for life,” said Ma­jor Mhatiwa.

He said the grad­u­ates were ex­pected to be am­bas­sadors of seed houses which are reg­u­lated by Agri­tex to boost farm­ing in their ar­eas.

He added that those with­out farms should reg­is­ter so that they will be al­lo­cated land, a move which would see the coun­try con­tin­u­ing to reg­is­ter bumper har­vests ev­ery year.

ZNA mem­bers who grad­u­ated with Master Farm­ers cer­tifi­cates from the Dom­boshava Na­tional Train­ing Centre

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