Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Acting Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Dr Olivia Muchena has hailed smallholder farmers for contributing immensely to the economy by increasing food and tobacco production in the last farming season.
Speaking at the National Dialogue on Agro Business, Food and Nutrition Security, Minister Muchena said smallholder farmers who benefited from the Presidential Well Wishers Input Scheme registered an increase in maize and small grains production.
She said the sector remained a priority for Government as it was the simplest effective tool that could be used to reduce poverty, create wealth and to feed the nation.
“It is my conviction that smallholder farmers should not remain marginalised in subsistence agriculture. Government fully supports the need to develop smallholder farmers into a viable commercial agricultural community because this is the only way our agriculture sector will be competitive,” she said.
During the 2013/14 agricultural season, the Presidential Input Scheme supported 1,6 million households with inputs livestock farmers to stimulate crop and livestock production and ensure food security and nutrition at household level.
“This support resulted in an increase of 82 percent in maize, 97 percent in sorghum, 123 percent, pearl millet, 43 percent finger millet as well as production of adequate food crops to meet national requirements,” she said.
Minister Muchena said overally the small holder sector contributed about 80 percent of maize last season compared to the 20 percent of A2 and large scale farmers.
The 2013/14 season also saw the number of cattle increasing from 5 241 000 to 5 368 000 and an increase in other livestock classes.
“Tobacco was exclusively grown previously by commercial farmers from 1 547 farmers in 1980. To date a total of 105 000 mainly smallholder farmers, communal and A1 are into tobacco production generating direct cash to farmers; to the tune of $684 million in the pockets of largely small holder farmers and an estimated $800 million from export earnings.
“This is phenomenal by any stretch of imagination that $684 million go into the pockets of the majority of our small holder tobacco farmers. It is unfortunate that Zimbabweans don’t have the talent to celebrate their achievement and pat themselves on their back,” she said.
She said Government was committed to assisting smallholder farmers so they commercialise their agriculture and provide a solid and broad base for industrial growth.
“Mechanisation and Irrigation Development are key in commercialisation of agriculture to ensure mitigation against drought.
“Zimbabwe has a natural semi arid ground that depends on natural rainfall for agricultural production and has become more unsustainable especially for smallholder farmers without irrigation facilities. Government recognises the role irrigation plays in food security, employment generation and economic development,” she said.
Over the years Government has made deliberate efforts to accelerate irrigation use through rehabilitation of irrigation equipment and development of new schemes throughout the country.