Fadziso Mundawarara and Elita Chikwati
Treasury has budgeted $20 million to further finance a heifer scheme under Command Agriculture this year as Government moves in to boost livestock production and beef up the national herd.
Delivering a lecture on the Progress and Challenges of the Command Agriculture initiative to the Joint Command Staff Course No. 33 at Zimbabwe Staff College, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said Command Agriculture was introduced as a maize input scheme in the 2016-17 cropping season to boost food production following two consecutive seasons of high food imports.
The programme has since been expanded to include soyabeans, wheat, livestock, wildlife and fisheries production.
Minister Shiri yesterday said since its inception, Command Agriculture had managed to boost productivity across the broad spectrum of value chains.
He said the Command Livestock programme had succeeded in distributing 3 539 heifers to 908 farmers in eight rural provinces.
In Matabeleland South, 308 farmers received a collective 1 032 heifers, Matabeleland South 437 farmers got 1 753 heifers, Midlands saw 38 farmers receiving 276 heifers.
In Masvingo, 30 livestock farmers received 109, 25 from Manicaland received 81, while 55 from Mashonaland East received 207.
Four farmers from Mashonaland Central received 21 heifers and 12 farmers from Mashonaland West got 60 heifers.
Minister Shiri expressed concern over the deaths of cattle from tick-borne diseases and urged farmers to take full responsibility for their livestock.
“The primary responsibility for the caring of cattle lies with the owners.
“We give so much weight to money and trivialise the value of cattle because we have been used to keeping cattle. We do not attach value to livestock. We only use the cattle as draught power or slaughter for ritual purposes.
“There is need to change the mindset of people so they can derive maximum value from their livestock,” he said.
On Command Poultry, the Minister said 640 000 chicks were distributed and success was recorded in the increase in the processing plants.
Under the poultry programme, 186 farmers benefited from the programme which was giving out a minimum of 500 chicks and a maximum of 5 000 chicks per individual.
The programme started with one single processing plant — Kudu Creek — but has since expanded to four.
“The programme has since engaged three more abattoirs — Farmer Jay Abattoir in Arcturus, Slaughter Land Abattoir which is on the outskirts of Harare near the Shamwa turn- off and Chicken Abattoir situated in Southerton area, Harare
“The Command Poultry programme managed to empower several farmers as they were making good profits. However, the programme was affected by shortage of chicks on the market and unavailability of poultry processing points outside urban centres,” he said.
The minister also spoke of irrigation development achievements which focused on installing modern irrigation equipment that is effective in light of the climate change in Zimbabwe and the world and ensuring environmental sustainability.
“The focus of this programme is to install modern irrigation equipment that is water efficient in light of the effects of climate change and ensuring environmental preservation,” he said.
Success in Command Agriculture has also been registered in an increase in maize production from 575 582 tonnes in 2015/2016 to 2 443 119 tonnes in the 2016/17 season.
In the 2017/18 production season, despite erratic rainfall patterns maize production was estimated at 1 836 145 tonnes.
During the 2018/19 season, Command Agriculture delivered 245 523 tonnes of maize to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
Thanks to Command Agriculture, the area under wheat production doubled from about 15 000 hectares in 2016 to about 38 000 hectares in 2017.
In 2017, winter wheat deliveries to the GMB totalled 185 720 tonnes of which 145 484 tonnes were from Command Agriculture.
For the 2018, winter wheat season, cumulative deliveries were 143 718 696 tonnes. It is important to note that Command Agriculture has been at the core of wheat production to ensure supplies of affordable flour to bakeries.
Soyabean production has also increased from the 21 617 hectares during the 2017/18 season with Command Agriculture accounting for 7 887 tonnes.
During the 2018/29 season the bulk of the soyabeans delivered to the GMB was from command Agriculture
Command Agriculture has, however, been affected by adverse climatic conditions, inadequate tillage services, erratic power supply, funding constraints although Government was working with the private sector to come up with sustainable solutions.