Arda steps up plan­ta­tions drive

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

THE Agri­cul­tural and Ru­ral Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (Arda) has stepped up ef­forts for the es­tab­lish­ment of plan­ta­tions across the coun­try as part of its ef­forts to en­hance the pro­duc­tion of cash crops and for­eign cur­rency gen­er­a­tion.

In an in­ter­view af­ter a tour of (Arda) Balu pecan and live­stock plan­ta­tion on Tues­day last week, Arda board chair­man Mr Basil Nyabadza said plan­ta­tions can play a piv­otal role in trans­form­ing economies of re­mote ar­eas in the coun­try.

“We are step­ping up plan­ta­tions de­lib­er­ately be­cause plan­ta­tions bring value to our ru­ral devel­op­ment man­date. In other words we want ru­ral dis­tricts to ac­quaint them­selves with a va­ri­ety of fruit trees. There is money in the pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing of trees into liq­uids and fruit for ex­port,” he said.

A plan­ta­tion is the large-scale es­tate meant for farm­ing that spe­cialises in cash crops. The crops that are grown in­clude cot­ton, cof­fee, tea, co­coa, sugar cane, sisal, oil seeds, oil palms, rub­ber trees and fruits.

Mr Nyabadza said there was a need to turn most of the coun­try’s un­der-utilised land into plan­ta­tions so as to gen­er­ate the much needed for­eign cur­rency through ex­port­ing var­i­ous cash crops.

“You re­alise that in our econ­omy right now, the drive is to do as much as pos­si­ble to­wards ex­ports and we be­lieve that at vil­lage level, district level, plan­ta­tions rang­ing from guavas, man­goes, granadil­las, pe­cans, lemons, sug­ar­cane, or­anges, tea and cof­fee that’s the range of plan­ta­tions we are talk­ing about in the five eco­log­i­cal re­gions within Zim­babwe,” he said.

Mr Nyabadza said a num­ber of nurs­eries have been es­tab­lished for the pro­duc­tion of var­i­ous fruits with about 30 000 pecan nuts seedlings ready for dis­tri­bu­tion across the coun­try.

“Our cli­mate is one of the best in the world and we must utilise it and that speaks to a vil­lager, to say from your own home­stead do you have guava, man­goe, or­ange or lemon trees. These are the ques­tions that we must ask ev­ery house­hold. If you pro­duce then we must make sure that the next stage of pro­cess­ing is avail­able at district level,” he said.

Arda Balu pecan and live­stock plan­ta­tion gen­eral man­ager Dr Jeremy Hu­bert said Phase I of the pecan nut project, which saw 1 000 seedlings be­ing planted on 100 hectares has been com­pleted.

“It (the pecan nut project) seems to be go­ing well. We are mov­ing into the rainy sea­son now, so the chal­lenge is go­ing to be wa­ter man­age­ment. Un­for­tu­nately we don’t have con­trol over how much it’s go­ing to rain, if it rains too much that could be a chal­lenge,” he said.

Phase II of the project would see 1 500 seedlings be­ing planted on 150 hectares.

“The next big stage of the project is de­vel­op­ing the nurs­ery . . . we are putting ap­prox­i­mately 80 000 seedlings and these will be for Phase III, for Phase II we al­ready have seedlings ready in Fort Rixon and some 2 000 seedlings here ready for next year. These seedlings here will be grown and grafted in a year and in three years which will be stage three of our project and these trees will be again planted,” said Dr Hu­bert.

Arda Balu is one of the es­tates the Gov­ern­ment agri­cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion has man­aged to re­vive through joint ven­ture ar­range­ments with play­ers in the pri­vate sec­tor.

The pecan nut project is ex­pected to see 1 000 hectares be­ing put un­der the de­cid­u­ous tree in five years, mak­ing it one of the big­gest such plan­ta­tions in the world.

Min­is­ter of State for Mata­bele­land North Pro­vin­cial Af­fairs Cde Richard Moyo said the pecan nut project was go­ing to play a piv­otal role in turn­ing around the prov­ince and the coun­try’s econ­omy.

“We are ex­cited about this devel­op­ment and the fact that plans are al­ready un­der­way to set up a pro­cess­ing plant for this nut is also ex­cit­ing as it will im­prove the Prov­ince’s eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties. In­vestors are also go­ing to con­struct two ad­di­tional dams as part of their ef­forts to avert the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

“These wa­ter sources will also be utilised by nearby com­mu­ni­ties for their wa­ter re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties and on top of that they have in­di­cated that they will drill bore­holes at a num­ber of vil­lages. The in­vestor will also em­bark on an out­grower scheme not only for the grow­ing of pecan nuts but var­i­ous other fruits such as av­o­ca­dos and guavas,” he said.

The De­part­ment of Crop and Live­stock Pro­duc­tion Mata­bele­land North pro­vin­cial of­fi­cer Mr Du­misani Ny­oni said pecan nuts are go­ing to be the first lu­cra­tive crop in the Mata­bele­land re­gion.

“As a prov­ince which is in the drier parts of the coun­try we have been seek­ing for a vi­able cash crop and pecan nuts are one such crop. This project will play a big part in cre­at­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties and it also has a scope for an out­grower scheme as the in­vestors has in­di­cated will­ing­ness to en­gage small­holder farm­ers will­ing to grow the nuts im­prov­ing their liveli­hoods in the process. Gen­er­ally the es­tate had been run down and in­jec­tion of cap­i­tal will see it be­com­ing vi­able once again,” said Mr Ny­oni.

Pecan nuts are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar as a crunchy and nu­tri­tious snack. Pe­cans are one of the most pop­u­lar ed­i­ble nuts na­tive to North Amer­ica and Mex­ico. The pecan tree is a large de­cid­u­ous tree be­long­ing to the hick­ory fam­ily.

Mean­while, Arda is ex­pect­ing about 50 000 tonnes of wheat from its es­tates and has al­ready started prepa­ra­tions to crop maize and soya beans this sea­son.

@Nsingo

Mr Basil Nyabadza

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