Elita Chikwati and Walter Nyamukondiwa
Farmers who qualified for the Command Agriculture programme have started collecting inputs from Grain Marketing Board depots, with one province having to order additional supplies. In a survey yesterday, The Herald established that inputs delivered to depots in Mashonaland Central were collected by farmers, with the province now waiting for additional stocks.
In Mashonaland West inputs have been delivered through rail and road to various GMB depots where they will be collected by farmers. Provinces in the southern part of the country are, however, expecting the inputs to be delivered to depots this week. In Mash Central — Bindura and Concession GMB depots — farmers collected inputs last week.
“The two depots received 30 tonnes of Compound D fertiliser and 31 tonnes of maize seed each and these have since been collected by farmers. Anytime from now we are expecting additional inputs,” said an official.
GMB Lions Den and Banket depots, in Mash West, have taken delivery of inputs including ammonium nitrate fertilisers. A source at one of the depots said inputs had come in early unlike in previous years.
“Inputs have been coming in since mid-September and we now await for the beneficiaries through their structures to come and collect,” said the official who cannot be named. Rail wagons laden with inputs delivered them to Banket, Chinhoyi and Lions Den depots last week while haulage trucks ferried the inputs to centres such as Mhangura and Magunje among others.
The quantities delivered so far could not be established by the time of writing but farmers are optimistic that this agriculture season will be a success. “We have seen government working hard to ensure that inputs are available on time. We see that as a positive step in ensuring that people meet their targets,” said a Banket farmer.
Officials in Midlands, Matabeleland North and Masvingo said they made arrangements for the delivery of the inputs last week and expect farmers to start collecting when they arrive this week.
Government has accelerated preparations for the 2016-17 summer cropping season after securing $503 million for inputs, some of which are already on the ground. Command agriculture is aimed at revitalisation of the agriculture sector in line with the 10-Point Plan for Economic Growth enunciated by the President recently.
Last week, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa reported that 2007 farmers had signed performance contracts under command agriculture. He said 5 961 hectares of irrigable land had been tilled in preparation for the season.
“Government has 980 tractors available for hire, including 74 from the District Development Fund, and a total of $503 million has been secured from various local financiers to mobilise the inputs. Inputs on the ground as we speak include 2 750 tonnes of seed, 20 000 tonnes of lime, 4 500 tonnes of basal fertiliser, 6 400 tonnes ammonium nitrate and four million litres of diesel,” he said.
Fertiliser companies have 100 000 tonnes compounds and ammonium nitrate in stock, while seed companies have 40 000 tonnes, which are enough to support command agriculture. The programme seeks to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares of land.
The farmers, to work under strict supervision, will be required to commit five tonnes per hectare to Government as repayment for the inputs and agricultural equipment.
He said command agriculture was a national programme that had been occasioned by the declining trend in production and a steady increase in national food insecurity from an average of 12 percent in 2011 to as high as 42 percent in 2016 where as many as four million people are likely to be food insecure, according to the 2016 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Report.
Command agriculture is aimed at raising maize production and reducing grain imports. It aims to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares, 200 000 of them under irrigation.
This scheme provides support to participating farmers in the form of irrigation equipment, seed, fertilizer and agrochemicals, tillage and subsidised water and electricity charges among other things. Command agriculture is running alongside the Presidential Input Scheme which is expected to benefit 300 000 small-scale farmers.