Boost for Nyanga small-scale farm­ers

The Manica Post - - Front Page - Tendai Guku­tikwa Post Cor­re­spon­dent

IN A set to dras­ti­cally boost agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity and food se­cu­rity, 3 000 small­holder farm­ers in Nyanga are set to ben­e­fit from 32 two-wheel tillage trac­tors and an­cil­lary equip­ment worth thou­sands of dol­lars availed by two Non-Gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions op­er­at­ing in the district.

Apart from the trac­tors, the farm­ers also re­ceived dou­ble-row planters and lo­cally man­u­fac­tured maize shellers.

The equip­ment was handed over to 45 trained lead farm­ers last Fri­day as part of a project by the In­ter­na­tional Res­cue Com­mit­tee (IRC) and the In­ter­na­tional Maize and Wheat Im­prove­ment Cen­tre (CIMMYT).

The project is be­ing funded by the Zim­babwe Re­silience Build­ing Fund (ZRBF).

Se­nior agron­o­mist and project leader for CIMMYT in Zim­babwe Dr Frédéric Bau­dron, said mech­a­ni­sa­tion was a crit­i­cal step in agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment.

He said the small-scale na­ture of ru­ral farm­ing in Zim­babwe makes con­ven­tional trac­tors and equip­ment pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive for many.

“With small-scale mech­a­ni­sa­tion, we can work with ru­ral ser­vice providers — of­ten women and youths — to pro­vide timely and af­ford­able mech­a­ni­sa­tion even to small­holder farm­ers,” said Dr Bau­dron.

He said this model has reg­is­tered huge suc­cesses in other African coun­tries, and has po­ten­tial to trans­form ru­ral farm­ing in Zim­babwe.

The 45 ser­vice providers en­trusted with the equip­ment were trained by CIMMYT over the past year.

The ges­ture will op­ti­mise plant­ing times, im­prove yields and re­duce the im­pact of fu­ture dry spells and droughts.

“The mech­a­ni­sa­tion equip­ment will not only en­able farm­ers to plant more quickly af­ter a rain­fall event, but will also al­low sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings. Plant­ing one hectare us­ing a two-wheel trac­tor will cost a farmer ap­prox­i­mately $50, against an av­er­age of an amount of $225 us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods.

“The new planters use min­i­mum tillage, which con­serves soil mois­ture and im­proves crop es­tab­lish­ment,” said Dr Bau­dron.

In ad­di­tion to trac­tors and planters, the project is also in­tro­duc­ing small-scale shellers, which will al­low farm­ers to shell up to eight tonnes of grain per day.

The shellers were pro­duced lo­cally, thereby cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment along the value chain.

Deputy Min­is­ter of Lands, Agri­cul­ture, Wa­ter, Cli­mate and Ru­ral Re­set­tle­ment, Mr Van­ge­lis Har­i­tatos said small­holder farm­ers in the coun­try were strug­gling to pro­duce cheap maize.

He said mech­a­ni­sa­tion ap­proaches that were af­ford­able to small­holder farm­ers like two-wheel trac­tors have the po­ten­tial to re­duce pro­duc­tion costs tremen­dously as they re­duce the use of fuel, al­low pre­cise ap­pli­ca­tion of seeds and fer­tilis­ers and saves time.

“Two-wheel trac­tor schemes that seek to re­duce costs ben­e­fit small scale farm­ers who rep­re­sent the ma­jor­ity of food pro­duc­ers in the coun­try. This, there­fore stim­u­lates do­mes­tic maize pro­duc­tion, and re­quires that small­hold­ers adopt cost sav­ing tech­nolo­gies. Mech­a­ni­sa­tion ap­proaches that are af­ford­able to small­hold­ers, like two-wheel trac­tors, have the po­ten­tial to re­duce pro­duc­tion cost tremen­dously,” he said.

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