From George Maponga in MWENEZI
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday said the Covid-19 global pandemic has forced nations to concentrate on solving their own problems to improve food security in the face of dwindling aid.
The Vice President, who attended a seed maize field day at Mwenezana Estates, said Zimbabwe should not expect food assistance from other nations.
He challenged Zimbabweans to fully utilise its water bodies and fertile land to produce enough cereals and traditional grains.
The Vice President hailed the Mwenezana Seed Maize Project that was jointly developed by Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe and Seed Co (Pvt) Limited as one of interventions key to ensuring food sufficiency in the country.
Tongaat provided the 465ha, irrigation infrastructure for the model private sector initiative and is also managing the production of the seeds, while Seed Co is providing specialist agronomic and technical support.
The project is expected to produce over 1 555 tonnes of seed, which is enough to place 62 000ha under commercial maize.
The 62 000ha are expected to produce 310 000 tonnes of maize at an average yield of five tonnes per hectare, which is enough to meet food needs of 14 percent of the population, according to VP Chiwenga.
“We have all heard about the scourge of Covid-19 that is sweeping across the whole world. Every country around the world is in turmoil because of this pandemic and this means that each and every country is on its own, so we are also on our own,” said VP Chiwenga.
“Nobody will assist us with food because at the moment every country is battling with its own challenges caused by Covid-19. The time for begging for food passed a long time ago. If you go anywhere and beg for food they will also say they do not have. Let us work on our own using our water and land to fill our silos.”
He said Government has already set the ball rolling through funding this year’s winter maize programme with a target to produce 415 000 tonnes after the State and private players financed production on 80 000ha around the country.
“We must fill our silos with wheat, maize and traditional grains. Government has put in place various interventions to make sure there is adequate power supply to support the winter wheat initiative.”
VP Chiwenga said Government had already floated tenders for land preparation in Kanyemba (in the Zambezi Valley), Bulawayo Kraal (Matabeleland North) and other parts of the country as part of efforts to expand the winter maize project.
He praised Tongaat for supporting Government achieve food security through the winter maize project, which could be expanded to cover 10 000ha if existing water bodies are fully utilised.
VP Chiwenga appealed to Tongaat for the firm to increase its offer of 2 000ha for this year’s winter project.
He requested the firm to increase the offer by an additional 600-700ha to which the sugar producer acceded to.
By virtue of being home to two of the country’s biggest inland water bodies,Tugwi-Mukosi Dam and Lake Mutirikwi, Masvingo had potential to transform into a perennial greenbelt and bread basket of the nation.
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi assured farmers of uninterrupted power supplies to boost wheat production urging farmers with arrears to make payment plans.
Tongaat chief executive Mr Aiden Mhere said the Mwenezana Seed maize project was Tongaat and Seed Co’s own contribution to helping the nation achieve food security through availing drought-tolerant seed varies.
Two seed maize varieties SC555 (80ha) and SC529 (385ha) are being produced at Mwenezana.
Mr Mhere said Tongaat wanted to expand Mwenezana cane estates from over 2 000ha to nearly 4 000ha to increase sugar output and create jobs. Masvingo Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Ezra Chadzamira said Masvingo was on course to becoming the agricultural giant of the nation and paid tribute to Tongaat for supporting the winter maize initiative.
Minister Chadzamira said more than 3 000ha availed by Tongaat and individual farmers this year will be put under winter maize and traditional grains.
Earlier on VP Chiwenga accompanied by Mr Mhere and Seed Co chief executive Mr Denford Zaranyika toured the seed maize project.
The field day was also attended by Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri, Minister Chasi, Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo, and Health and Child Care deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro.
The VP and his delegation also toured Chilonga in southern Chiredzi where a lucerne grass project is planned.