|Experience helps to improve yields|
|Friday, 21 September 2012 00:00|
and see where we went wrong. A close look will show that previous schemes failed because of problems to do with the farmers themselves, Government and the effects of drought.
Our farmers are diluting the effectiveness of support schemes by misusing inputs loaned to them. For example when farmers receive inputs for one hectare they spread the fertiliser over a larger area of up to three hectares.
Farmers are not using the knowledge that they have acquired, a situation that has led to low harvests. Government has trained farmers through Arex and awarded them master farmer’s certificates. These farmers know that soils have to be tested regularly but they are not doing it.
If results indicate a wrong pH level a farmer can now take corrective measures such as using agricultural lime to neutralise acidic conditions or using appropriate fertilisers such as ammonium sulphate that neutralise acid conditions instead of ammonium nitrate and improve yields.
The research will be costly, but vital process. The Government has to sacrifice in the same way it has sacrificed for the constitution-making process and the national census. The benefits far outweigh the cost.
Government is disbursing inputs late and agriculture is all about timing and the delay impacts negatively on yields. Seed varieties in the medium and late maturity category have strict planting dates, which need adherence, so when a farmer receives such a variety late, that farmer will have been disadvantaged so much that his/her potential is reduced.
Government schemes are not participatory. The Government is sticking to the now outdated top to bottom one size fits all approach were wrong choices are being made on behalf of farmers by planners. This is contributing to low harvests.
Farmers in such wet regions should receive at least late maturity varieties which have the highest yields to maximise on the high rainfall advantages offered by their region. The problem with Government schemes is that they do not factor in the differences in nutritional composition and pH of soils. In designing inputs schemes, Government planners use standard inputs quantities such as 300kg basal fertiliser and 300kg top dressing fertiliser for maize when in reality soils are not standard. In most cases farmers get wrong inputs quantities and type of fertiliser. Worse of all the schemes do not have room for additives such as agricultural lime.
Government needs to improve on its preparations for the agriculture season so that funds are availed in June and inputs by August. There is also a need to create an organisation whose key result areas are distributing input loans as well as collecting repayments.
Schemes should be designed to cater adequately for farmer’s needs. Farmers have to make individual applications for funding. In their applications farmers have to state their specific needs relating to seed, fertilisers and other needs attaching documentary evidence such as soil test results.
The authorities will then approve loans depending on availability of funds. The other major threat is drought. The word drought sends chills down the farmer’s spine. Zimbabweans should not lose hope because our farming history has valuable lessons that we can learn from.