Ministry formulates policy to develop agricultural education

Munya Simango Correspondent

In line with Government’s drive to develop Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector, the Ministry of Lands Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement in collaboration with the Community Technology Development Organization (CTDO) is developing a new Agriculture Education, Extension and Research (AEER) Policy.

The policy formulation process is supported by the European Union under the Zimbabwe Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems (ZAKIS) project. It is a response to the challenges that have for some time faced the institutions that deliver education, extension and research services to the agriculture sector.

In an interview recently, ZAKIS head of project Mr Waddilove Sansole said: “One of our key priorities is to contribute to the creation of a conducive and functional environment that enables the sustainable development of the agriculture sector. The AEER policy will strengthen and harmonise the delivery of services to farmers by creating strong and effective systems. It builds on the existing sector-specific policies which include the Agriculture Recovery Plan and the Agriculture and Food systems Transformation Policy.”

The Ministry of Agriculture and CTDO are developing the policy through participatory research and a series of inclusive provincial stakeholder consultation meetings.

Commenting on the initiative, the chief economist in the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Strategic Policy Planning and Business Development, Ms Dorcas Tawonashe Matsenyengwa said: “Structural transformation of the agricultural sector, including agricultural education, research and extension, is key for a prosperous, sustainable, resilient, diverse and competitive agriculture sector. This policy will make a significant contribution to national development and to the attainment of country’s vision of becoming a middle income economy by 2030, as it will ensure food and nutrition security.”

The consultations are aimed at gathering input from key stakeholders in the agriculture sector, including farmers, as well as the public, private, and civil society sectors.

Speaking on the side-lines of the Midlands provincial stakeholder consultation meeting that was held in Gweru recently, ZAKIS policy advisor and CTDO policy and advocacy manager Mr Regis Mafuratidze said: “The process is focused on re-thinking and re-defining the delivery of relevant, farmer-centric and value chain oriented services to farmers. We are therefore meeting with stakeholders countrywide to discuss and define the kind of AEER services that they would like to have in place; which meets the current overall agriculture policy objectives, and the vision for the country.”

Mr Mafuratidze said that the policy focuses on developing strong institutions with effective links to agricultural actors and it seeks to promote innovations through coordinated support to research, education and extension.

“The focus in terms of agricultural education is on specialised training and building the capacities of graduates from our institutions to meet current and future market needs. Also, the new policy seeks to transform agriculture by providing a technically sound, robust, and mobile extension service that is responsive to farmer needs,” said the ZAKIS policy advisor.

He added that the new policy seeks to set a research agenda and to promote partnerships with regional and international research organisations to ensure that research contributes to attaining production and productivity.

CTDO brings extensive policy formulation and adoption experience to the ZAKIS project. The organisation works on policy and advocacy programmes to promote integrated agrobiodiversity management, environmental management, food and seed security, water, and sanitation.

The ZAKIS project is implemented by a consortium of local and international agricultural specialist NGOs, comprising of Welthungerhilfe (lead), ICRISAT, CTDO, and SAT. Its objective is to improve farmers’ livelihoods by enhancing the dissemination of agricultural knowledge and stimulating innovation through strengthening the working links among agricultural research, education, and extension services in Zimbabwe.

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