Fungai Lupande Mashonaland Central Bureau
Mashonaland Central Agritex extension officer Mr Stancilae Tapererwa has called for the establishment of a soil testing and analysis laboratory in the province, which is one of the best in the country in terms of agricultural production.
Mr Tapererwa told an all stakeholders consultative meeting last Friday that they only had capacity to do soil pH tests while all other tests were being done in Harare, which was a cost to the farmer.
“Before growing any crop, a farmer needs to take a soil sample to a laboratory for analysis,” he said. “We don’t have those labs in the province and farmers travel all the way to Harare for their soil analysis, which becomes expensive for them. At the moment we can only test for soil pH.
“We need the laboratories to be established here in the province. Our universities should come on board so that our farmers travel short distances for such services. We also have a shortage of spraying equipment. In the past, we used to contract service providers. This is another area where investors can come in.
“We have a challenge of limited competence in farmers. At the moment farmers are heavily dependent on extension service provided by Government, but we are all aware of the challenges we are facing. Extension officers don’t have motorcycles, so there is need for us to embrace other service providers like universities, farmers unions and private companies.”
Bindura University of Science Education Vice Chancellor Professor Eddie Mwenje assured the meeting that universities in the province were working towards setting up laboratories for soil and water testing.
“As universities we are trying to establish those laboratories,” he said. “In a year or so farmers, will not need to travel to Harare because they will be able to do their soil and water testing locally.
“The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education has spearheaded the introduction of industrial parks so that industries can be set up here.
“As universities we attract students from all over the country, we now have a total 6 000 students who are bringing different skills which can assist us in establishing industries. What we require is local partnerships.
“We want to be able to quantify what each district is contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the province and the nation. Meaningful data is what investors require, we are coming up with innovation hubs, centres for food security and climate change where solutions to challenges in agriculture would be availed.”