Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Cotton Presidential Input and Tillage schemes were launched in Gokwe at the weekend amid calls that no influential person should be allowed to abuse the Government-initiated programme.
The inputs should only be allocated to deserving farmers.
The free input scheme, launched on Saturday at Gokwe Nembudziya Cottco depot, targets 8 000 tonnes of cotton seed to be panted on 19 000 hectares of land in the area, which is the biggest cotton producing district in Zimbabwe.
Under the scheme, each farmer received a 20kg bag of cotton seed, three bags of basal and top dressing fertiliser, a knapsack sprayer, different kinds of chemicals and empty bales, all for free.
Addressing hundreds of farmers just before distribution, Gokwe Nembudziya legislator Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena implored farmers to work hard and restore the country’s breadbasket status.
He said it was through the visionary leadership of President Mnangagwa that the scheme was not only introduced but had since been extended to enable people to realise the full benefits.
“In that regard, I implore Cottco to distribute (inputs under) the scheme fairly and professionally and give deserving people; that is the expectation of the President. No person including politicians, myself included, should call you to armtwist you to do things outside the laid-down procedure.
“Otherwise that will defeat the spirit and objectives of the scheme, which was conceived by our leadership,” said Cde Wadyajena.
He also castigated those who sidemarketed their produce saying the law should take its course.
“I urge traditional leaders and law enforcement agencies to be hard on those that sell the inputs or those who side-market their harvests. Everyone who benefits from this scheme should sell his or her produce to Cottco, the Government-appointed firm,” he said.
Cottco business unit manager for Sanyati Mr Chrispen Gwauya said Gokwe had traditionally been known to be the biggest producer of cotton, hence the need for farmers in the area to work hard.
“This means we do not expect people to sell these inputs that we are giving you for free, courtesy of President Mnangagwa. We should plant these inputs and not (engage in) any other self-serving purpose,” said Mr Gwauya.
Cotton Producers’ and Marketers’ Association chairman Mr Stewart Mubonderi said side marketing was inimical to Government efforts to create a revolving fund that benefits the sector in the long-run.
“Let us complement the vision of the President, who reckoned it is only through increased production that the country can be turned around,” said Mr Mubonderi.
He said the Government was committed to promoting value addition on the crop to increase income from exports as cotton was one of the biggest foreign currency earners in the agricultural sector after tobacco.
The scheme, which encourages every farmer regardless of climatic region to grow at least one hectare of cotton, also includes free tillage.
Government launched the Presidential Input Scheme following a slump in the cotton production owing to destructive competition in the sector.
The scheme was initially meant to last for three years but Government decided to extend it indefinitely thanks to the benefits accruing to the nation.