Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
Government has called for an urgent transformation of the agricultural model to ensure farmers actively participate in commercial production and also contribute to economic growth.
This came out during Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri’s lecture on Command Agriculture, Food Security and Prospects at the Joint Command and Staff Course Number 33 at the Zimbabwe Staff College at Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks.
The lecture reviewed the achievements, challenges besetting the programme and lessons learnt.
Minister Shiri said Command Agriculture did not address issues to do with sustained survival and productivity for rural communities.
“There is need to transform our agriculture model to ensure that all farmers big, small, A1 and peasant farmers are actively involved in growing the national economy.
“No category of farmers must be left behind. All must be on board as we move forward. Ultimately, peasant farmers must be transformed into viable and profitable commercial entities that contribute towards the well-being of rural communities through adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture practices,” he said.
He said there was need for Government to put in place a robust system where rural communities participate in local and export markets through active involvement in traditional cropping programmes as well as horticulture value chains that create sources of continuous income to sustain their decent livelihoods.
“Cotton production is one way that keeps the rural communities busy throughout the year and earns them decent incomes. Active and continuous involvement in such programmes will guarantee their positive participation in the economic development of the country.
“Growing of traditional grains is part of our strategy towards ensuring that rural populations together with small-scale farmers engage in sustainable and profitable agricultural activities. It is high time we also examine how other countries sustained their food sufficiency and challenges from climate change,” he said.
The introduction of climate smart agriculture strategies in rural areas is another way that was recommended to mitigate effects of climate change. Smart agriculture is a farming management concept using modern technology to increase the quantity and quality of agricultural products.
“Farmers in the 21st century have access to GPS, soil scanning, data management and internet technologies. Rural people must participate in national economic programmes that will eventually benefit themselves.
They must be engaged in commercial activities that transform them from being mere peasant farmers to commercial farmers.
“This is feasible if we borrow ideas from countries like China, Israel. Most farms in the European Union countries are less than 10 hectares and in China most peasant farmers own one hectare each.
“In Israel farmers own small farms in desert conditions yet they are major exporters of horticultural products. If the truth can be said, our farmers are sitting in paradise yet they do not realise it, we therefore need to educate our farmers so that together we transform the agricultural sector,” he said.
Minister Shiri emphasised on the need to assist farmers to access mechanisation and tillage services catering for different farmer requirements.
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. During the 2019/20 agricultural season, the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe took over the financing and administration of the Command Agriculture programme.