ARDA joint ventures target 200 000t maize Dr Anxious Masuka

Conrad MupesaMashonaland West Bureau 

Despite the erratic rains that have characterised the 2023/2024 summer cropping season, Zimbabwe expects to get 200 000 tonnes of maize from the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA)-commercial farmers’ joint venture programme for irrigated maize.

The joint ventures were entered into to address the adverse effects of the El-Nino phenomenon, which has resulted in low rains across the country.

Presently, a lot of crops that rely on rains, are showing signs of moisture stress, while the irrigated crop is doing well.

The joint venture between ARDA and commercial farmers initially targeted to put about 100 000 hectares under maize, but they ended up managing on 61 852ha.

This is in addition to other dryland crops including sorghum and millet that were contracted by ARDA.

The entire SADC region is set to be affected by food shortages following erratic rains this cropping season.

Some countries have started importing grains as part of measures to deal with the anticipated drought.

Addressing farmers from Makonde’s Ward 13 at Mr Aaron Wilson’s Highlands Farm where the farmer is expecting a bumper harvest from 65 hectares of maize contracted under ARDA’s joint venture partnership last Friday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, said while Zimbabwe was reeling under the negative effects of the El-Nino-induced season, initiatives including Pfumvudza/Intwasa would see some maize being harvested.

Mr Wilson, who invested in an irrigation system this summer, drilled two commercial boreholes that can produce about 68 000 cubic litres of water a day, enough to irrigate 68ha direct from the sources.

The young farmer is expecting an average yield of 7 to 9 tonnes per hectare from the 65ha maize field.

He has also constructed a reservoir dam at the farm, which has a holding capacity of 365 000 cubic litres, enough to irrigate 130 hectares.

Mr Wilson has set a target of 60ha of wheat this winter with 200ha for maize and other crops under irrigation next summer.

Said Minister Masuka: “ARDA had identified an area of 106 000 hectares throughout the country for irrigated crops but managed to do 61 852ha. 

“Our conservative estimate is that they should be able to produce at least five tonnes per hectare. Using this average, their maize target output from 43 625 hectares of the irrigated component should give us at least 200 000 tonnes.”

Out of the 43 000 hectares under irrigated maize, Mashonaland West Province has almost 8 000 hectares.

Zimbabwe needs at least 1,8 million tonnes of maize per year and Government has pinned hopes on ARDA’s future endeavours to produce at least 500 000 tonnes yearly, regardless of the climatic conditions.

“This ARDA-JV programme is going to be sustained into the future and we also expect these farmers to start winter wheat preparations and this time on a bigger scale to sustain the rolling initiative,” said Minister Masuka.

In terms of wheat, the joint venture is expected to produce about 250 000 tonnes.

Mashonaland West, the country’s breadbasket province, has over 50 percent of farmers contracted under the ARDA-JV initiative due to soil types and rainfall patterns.

It produces at least 50 to 55 percent of the country’s annual grain output.

Provincial Agricultural and Rural Development Advisory Services (ARDAS) deputy director Mrs Evelyn Ndoro said the province had put 293 000ha under maize against a target of 363 000ha.

She said farmers contracted to do sorghum were failing to apply ammonium nitrate fertilisers due to the ongoing dry spell.

“At least 7 000 hectares were contracted under irrigated maize and this is part of the provincial achieved target, and all this (maize) is in good condition. 

“We hope our farmers will not be affected by load shedding and power disconnections. On sorghum, 10 200ha were done and the poor rains are affecting the application of fertilisers,” she said.

Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Marian Chombo, pleaded with Government for the timeous disbursement of wheat inputs to beat to the impact of climate change.

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