Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called on Zimbabweans to put aside their differences and unite to support the Government’s command agriculture initiative aimed at boosting food security and nutrition in the face of recurrent drought conditions.
He said this at the fourth Annual National Agribusiness Conference at the Exhibition Park in Harare yesterday.
The conference was attended by Government officials, including Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Dr Joseph Made, his deputies, Cde Davis Marapira and Cde Paddy Zhanda, Minister of State for Harare, Cde Miriam Chikukwa, deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President, Retired Colonel Christian Katsande, farmers’ organisation representatives and business sector representatives.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Minister in the VP’s office, Cde Clifford Sibanda, VP Mnangagwa said successful agricultural performance would stimulate the agro-industry and create employment.
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“I call upon right thinking Zimbabweans to invoke the spirit of patriotism and dedication to the welfare of the country by casting aside petty rivalries and joining hands in supporting this vital Government initiative. The initiative has a potential to restore food security and nutrition, generate income and improve livelihoods of all our people including those in the diaspora irrespective of gender, religion, origin and political orientation,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“It is an unassailable fact that successful agricultural performance in this great country will stimulate agro-industry, downstream industries, the services sector and employment creation among other benefits,” he said.
He said command agriculture was a national programme that had been occasioned by the declining trend in production and a steady increase in national food insecurity from an average of 12 percent in 2011 to as high as 42 percent in 2016 where as many as four million people are likely to be food insecure, according to the 2016 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Report.
Command agriculture is aimed at raising maize production and reducing grain imports. It aims to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares, 200 000 of them under irrigation.
This scheme provides support to participating farmers in the form of irrigation equipment, seed, fertilizer and agrochemicals, tillage and subsidised water and electricity charges among other things.
VP Mnangagwa said command agriculture run alongside the Presidential Input Scheme which is expected to benefit 300 000 small-scale farmers.
“Efforts are already underway to mobilize resources for the two schemes. Registration of farmers for command agriculture is taking place at local district level to allow for the proper assessment of farms with regard to capacity and potential. The equipment and machinery to be availed to farmers will be on a cost-recovery basis as nothing will be free.
“To ensure the programme becomes a roaring success, I encourage banks and other financial institutions to be part of the programme. I call upon private and public sector players to partner Government under the PPP in this programme,” he said.
He advised farmers with seed maize to make deliveries to their respective contractors to increase the country’s seed stock.
“I want to reassure all stakeholders that a transparent and corruption proof mechanism will be put in place to ensure sound administration of the programme,” he said.
Presenting at the same function, director of the Meteorological Services Department Dr Amos Makarau appealed to Government to consider assisting farmers in communal areas with tillage equipment as they lost their cattle due to the El Nino-induced drought.
“Most farmers lost their cattle and do not have draught power. We appeal to Government to assist these farmers with tractors, not as individuals but as communities.
“Government should also ensure early disbursement of inputs to Midlands and Masvingo farmers as they rely on early rains,” he said.