Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
The Government-initiated Command Agriculture programme has registered remarkable results in its first year, after exceeding the targeted two million tonnes of maize, as initial assessments are already pointing to a bumper harvest in excess of three million tonnes.
The specialised programme is being implemented over a three-year period with a view to ensuring national food self-sufficiency.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa told a Methodist Church in Zimbabwe congregants at a welcome ceremony for Reverend Victor Chidzambwa as the incoming Kuwadzana Extension circuit superintendent yesterday that this year the country would have enough food.
He said the challenge that Government was now facing was that of storage facilities.
“We started this project with a target of getting two million tonnes, but the assessment that we have done so far is showing that we may surpass three million tonnes,” he said.
“You prayed as churches and we received good rains and are expecting a bumper harvest. The challenge that we are now facing is that of storing the maize.”
VP Mnangagwa said with the good harvests expected this year, it is important to expand Command Agriculture to include other crops that have downstream benefits to the economy.
Said VP Mnangagwa: “We hope the country will draw lessons from this initial phase, with a view to extending it to other crops like wheat, small grains, oilseeds like soyabeans, sunflowers and groundnuts, floriculture and livestock, among other sub-sectors.
“The above crops will generate numerous opportunities and other benefits along the agricultural value chain. Such benefits include, but are not limited to, fuel distribution, transportation of grain and other agricultural products to the Grain Marketing Board, milling, distribution and packaging of processed products arising out of Command Agriculture and other agricultural initiatives like the Presidential Inputs Scheme.”
VP Mnangagwa said institutions such as the church were allowed to take part in Command Agriculture, adding that Johane Marange Apostolic Church had already exploited the opportunity.
Turning to the spiritual realm, VP Mnangagwa said churches played a pivotal role in moulding people’s behaviour.
In the same breath, VP Mnangagwa hailed the role being played by pastors in nurturing people in religious circles.
“Our pastors are a blessing from the Lord Almighty, who in his divine wisdom, allocates specific pastors to identified circuits at the appropriate time,” he said.
“They are our intercessors and it is critical that they be provided with a modicum of decent living so that they concentrate on their religious work, and not worry unduly about where they will get the next meal, where they will sleep next and even school fees for their children.”
VP Mnangagwa described pastors as spiritual fathers, adding that: “As Government, therefore, we urge the church to complement the State in inculcating a spirit of service, selflessness, discipline, respect for the law and order, love and hard honest work in our citizenry.
“These constitute the pillars for the success of any God-fearing nation. Let us always bear in mind that the Lord Almighty is a God of order, peace, love and harmony.”
Rev Chidzambwa’s welcome ceremony was also attended by Harare Metropolitan Province Minister of State Miriam Chikukwa, Kuwadzana legislator Cde Betty Kaseke and her Norton counterpart Mr Temba Mliswa.
Cde Kaseke asked for Government intervention to ensure that churches, especially in her constituency, were allocated land to construct prayer shelters.
She also made an appeal to Government to also consider urban farmers under the Command Agriculture programme.
Government will soon embark on another agricultural programme called Super Agriculture that will put swathes of idle land countrywide under crops following the success of Command Agriculture.
Funding for the winter wheat crop covering over 50 000 hectares has already been secured, while Government is working on a comprehensive transition mechanism from summer to winter cropping.
Domiciled under Command Agriculture, the comprehensive agricultral programme will see the establishment of dryers, mills and silos at central locations countrywide. The programme to build localised silos, dryers and mills will ensure harvesting is done in good time.
Under the Super Agriculture Programme, areas like the Zambezi Valley, Chiredzi and Tokwe-Mukosi in Masvingo will be fully utilised.
The Grain Marketing Board has started the rehabilitation of its 12 silos, with a time line of finishing just as the delivery season starts in April, to accommodate the bumper harvest expected this season.
GMB has a storage capacity of 3 973 000 tonnes of maize from its facilities which include silos, open space and sheds.
The storage infrastructure was constructed in 1953.
Six sites – Aspindale, Bulawayo, Banket, Lions Den, Concession and Chegutu – will be overhauled.
Bulawayo was completed in November, Aspindale and Banket will be completed by March 10, whilst Lion’s Den, Concession and Chegutu will be completed by April 1, just as intake starts.
GMB acting general manager Mr Lawrence Jasi said last week that rehabilitation of mechanical and electrical equipment on the GMB silos involved the total replacement of outdated equipment and technology in the plant such as grain cleaners, gearboxes, bagging stations and electric motors used for grain conveyance, cleaning and storage.