Command Agric on the ground, not Twitter: VP
Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said Zimbabweans should not be distracted by posts on social media like Twitter denigrating Command Agriculture, which has been a huge success.
He was speaking on Friday last week at the Maize Value Chain Conference organised by Buy Zimbabwe in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society.
The conference, which was attended by stakeholders in the agricultural industry including millers, seed houses, farmers unions, and agro-processors, was held under the theme “Sustaining a competitive and inclusive maize value chain”.
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“Do not mind Twitter, Command Agriculture is on the ground, not on social media,” said VP Mnangagwa. “There is no doubt that Command Agriculture has yielded positive results, as the projected maize yield from the 2016/17 season will be the best, in a number of years.
“Indications from the areas I have toured to date suggest that we are headed for a bumper harvest that will be upward of two million tonnes.”
Cabinet Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo has been using his Twitter handle to cast aspersions on Command Agriculture and projecting it as a dismal failure.
A number of Government officials have been questioning Prof Moyo’s resorting to Twitter on a subject that is discussed in Cabinet in his presence, without him saying anything against it on that platform.
VP Mnangagwa said Government learnt several lessons from Command Agriculture this season, including the need to distribute inputs to farmers early.
He said by August this year, all farmers under different input programmes should have received adequate inputs.
“We also need to assist our farmers to access mechanisation and tillage services catering for different farmer requirements,” said VP Mnangagwa. “There is also need for combine harvesters, dryers and storage facilities to manage post harvest losses. It has to be adequately planned and implemented like yesterday.
“It is critical to maximise on the planting window in relation to rainfall patterns for future summer cropping seasons. Therefore, we urgently need a focused mechanisation strategy to speed up farm operations like planting. We should also develop an irrigation master plan and increase area under irrigation.
“If we are to achieve the targets, there is need for proper application of fertilizers and herbicides. This requires an efficient, sufficiently mobile and well motivated extension services with up to date competences.”
VP Mnangagwa said there was need to continue motivating farmers and developing strategies to boost productivity, especially under the small-scale and communal sectors.
He said this included buying maize at a higher price of $390 per tonne which was way above what was being offered regionally and internationally.
VP Mnangagwa said due to the expansion of maize hectarage and increased yields during the 2016/17 season, most maize value chain players were going to benefit from increased demand for their products.
He said Government should consider adopting modern Information Technology driven farming to boost agricultural productivity and make farming more cost efficient.
“The benefit of this move are multifarious, including the ability to conduct instant soils tests, obtain information about weather, better management of irrigation systems, forecasting yields, receiving information on commodity prices and markets, thereby allowing farmers leeway to effectively plan vital activities like planting, fertiliser application, harvesting and marketing of the produce,” he said.
“Such information coupled with advice from extension officers should improve farm productivity and make farming more cost efficient.
“With a database of farmers, it will be possible for Government to simultaneously disseminate a single message communication on issues like pests, disease and their control to a large number of farmers.”