Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Farmers leading the production thrust were yesterday rewarded at a National Young Champion Farmers Awards ceremony presided over by President Mnangagwa.
They went home with prizes that included motorbikes, farming inputs and money.
Some of the outstanding farmers do not own land as they were still too young when Government distributed land at the turn of the millennium.
They are renting.
The President was impressed when he spoke at the ceremony at the National Botanic Gardens in Harare that the new generation was making such a significant contribution, despite not having much land.
“I exhort the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement to work with various stakeholders to facilitate the entry of more young farmers into horticulture, animal husbandry and agroforestry sub-sectors as well as the value addition and beneficiation of all agriculture produce,” said President Mnangagwa.
“I call for greater accommodation of the young farmers into programmes such as the Command Agriculture Programme and the Presidential Inputs Scheme. Mechanisation and Irrigation Development programmes should also favourably support this young generation of farmers.
“As Government, we will continue to be alive to the unique needs of young farmers such as technical expertise, extension services, agro financing and identification and penetration of markets.”
The overall winner, National Farmer of the Year, Mr John Muchenje of Mvuma, Midlands, received a motorcycle, trophy, cash, soyabean seed and a certificate.
He planted 40 hectares of maize, 40 hectares of wheat and 20 hectares of tobacco.
Last season, he delivered 100 tonnes of maize to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and sold 140 tobacco bales.
He also had soyabeans and has already planted maize and cabbages.
Mr Muchenje employs 40 workers and has built a decent homestead.
The prize for overall small grain and wheat producer went to Mr Fungai Makoni of Rusape who received cash, maize seed, a trophy and a certificate.
Mr Makoni produced 40 hectares of wheat.
Ms Susan Muza of Goromonzi was voted the best lawn producer in the country. She is regularly invited abroad to teach other farmers to grow lawn.
Ms Muza received 50kg maize seed, horticultural inputs and a certificate.
Mr Luckwell Shereni of Mt Darwin was rewarded for being the best cotton grower. He received fertilisers, a knapsack sprayer, chemicals, cotton seed and a certificate.
He planted seven hectares of cotton.
Some of the winners included Best Young Coffee Farmer (Mr Raymond Mangwaba), Best Young Soyabean farmer (Mr Edwin Kudanga), Best Young Groundnuts farmer (Mr Tafadzwa Chisero); Best Young Horticulture Exporter (Mr Chriswell Daitone of Mashonaland West), Best Young Forestry and Plantation farmer (Mr Paul Katsande from Mashonaland East), while the best apiculture farmer award went to Ms Irene Makumbe.
Others received awards in beef, dairy, piggery, poultry, goat and sheep production.
Technical experts were not left out.
The winner for the best ICT in Agriculture was Ms Memory Dubai, while Ms Evangelista Chekera won the Best Agro Innovator award.
Ms Chekera leads a team that designs, manufactures and distributes poultry slaughtering cones.
She was granted patents for her chick brooder and poultry slaughtering cone by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO).
Ms Chekera also won the Women African Innovation Fellowship (AIF) this year as a reward for her chick brooding device. She was selected to be a Thought for Food Ambassador for Southern and Central Africa.
Outstanding Young Women in Agriculture were also rewarded, with Ms Wendy Madzura, an agronomist from Seed Co Group, and Ms Caroline Monzendi from Econet’s Eco Farmer, being rewarded.
President Mnangagwa urged the youths to adopt smart agriculture practices, traditional crops and new seed varieties to increase yields and quality of produce per unit area.
He urged the media to profile successful young farmers to encourage more youths to venture into farming.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri was also impressed.
Turning to practical support already being implemented, Minister Shiri said Cabinet had approved the involvement of farmer associations and clubs to be supported by the Government in the 2019-2020 farming season and beyond.
“Agricultural transformation will be hard to achieve if the young people are left out in the various value chains,” he said.
“The youth constitute the bulk of the labour force and they are custodians of our skilled resource base. I am impressed by the effort shown by my ministry’s Youth Desk and relevant departments in involving young farmers in agriculture-led developments.
“Structured youth mainstreaming in all spheres of the economy is a recipe towards achievement of sustainable development goals and contributing towards making our country an (upper) middle income economy by 2030.”
Minister Shiri applauded the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Vision, among others, for working with the Government to support farmers.