. . . province sets aside 65 000ha
Samuel Kadungure : Manicaland Bureau
MANICALAND will put 65 000 hectares under the specialised production scheme aimed at improving maize production and enhance food security to cover the harsh periods between harvests. Last season the province put 240 000 hectares under maize but the staple crop succumbed to the El Nino-induced drought before reaching maturity.Provincial Agritex officer for Manicaland Mr Godfrey Mamhare on Wednesday last week called on farmers willing to participate in a special programme on contract maize farming to approach their Mutare offices.
He said the programme was targeting those capable of producing over five tonnes of maize per hectare.
Mr Mamhare said priority will be given to those with functioning irrigation infrastructure, potential irrigable areas and maize producers on dry land, be they large- or small-scale farmers.
The programme will start from the next summer cropping season.
He said Government will assess their capacity to produce at least 1 000 tonnes of grain annually and will check their debt records to determine eligibility.
The $500 million scheme is targeting 2 000 farmers who will be allocated land, seeds, fertilisers, chemicals and irrigation equipment to produce food for the nation.
Contractees will first have their farms assessed before signing binding contracts, being supplied with fertilisers and seed maize seed optimised for the climates of one’s respective region.
Mr Mamhare said increased maize production was needed given Zimbabwe’s fragile food security.
“Priority will be given to those with irrigation and later we will also consider those with potential to produce at least five tonnes of maize under dry land,” said Mr Mamhare.
Zimbabwe’s agriculture is currently facing serious challenges of productivity.
In recent years, productivity declined drastically due to successive droughts which resulted in the country failing to feed itself.
The current mentality of farmers is self-enrichment instead of being a business undertaken with responsibility to provide the nation with sustainable food security.
The need for Government to provide an enabling environment through clear policy goals and commensurate investments in infrastructure, mechanisation, training, education and information cannot be underestimated.
In the same vein, the private sector and development partners must come on board and assist with the finance and distribute inputs at fair prices as closer to the farmers as possible.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director Mr Paul Zachariya recently argued that farmers, the private sector and Government should own up to their mandatory and complementary roles if the nation was to get out of the current quagmire.
“There are certain things that we need to straighten up as a nation so that we revive our agriculture.
“The first thing that we require for a successful farming season is the financial resources.
“We need a smooth process where farmers access financial resources.
“Banks should be adequately capitalised and capacitated to finance agriculture at commercial level.
“No farmer can produce at commercial level with own resources.
“That requires borrowing,” said Mr Zachariya, adding that inputs must be readily available at the right cost to meet the requirements of farmers.