Youths in the agriculture sector were yesterday honoured for their contribution towards the economy, food and nutrition security and employment creation with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga pledging additional support from Government through the provision of more resources to boost production so that they continue towards the attainment of Vision 2030.
VP Chiwenga said Government was expediting the establishment of the Land Bank, which will ensure that youths and women access to loans to finance their agriculture activities.
He said this while officiating at the second edition of the National Young Champion Farmer Awards in Harare yesterday, where he handed over certificates and various prizes to 50 outstanding young farmers.
The prizes included cash, inputs and livestock among other things. The top five farmers were Mr Pardon Mhuri from Hurungwe, who is into tobacco seedlings production, tobacco, maize and wheat, Miss Ruramiso Mashumba from Marondera (forestry, maize and horticulture, wheat farmer), Mr Benedict Chagumuka of Mashonaland Central, Ms Wendy Madzura (extension) and Ms Tavonga Chiguvi of Hurungwe, who is into vermicompost, sorghum and agro ecology.
VP Chiwenga said young farmers were key to the development and success of the agriculture industry.
“Youths are energetic, skilled and innovative and our Government is open to progressive minds and ideas,” he said. “We should stop this business of year in and year out going to other countries with a begging bowl yet we are the best in the continent terms of education.
“Let’s now take our education and go into every industry starting by feeding ourselves and going into manufacturing. You are the youths; the future of our country, let us we see your worthiness. As Government, we will give you the full support,” he said.
He noted that many smallholder farmers, particularly the youth had technical skills, but lacked funding in the capital intensive industry.
“The establishment of a Land Bank will go a long way towards ensuring easy access to financial support.
“We have been working tirelessly with the Ministry of Lands Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and key stakeholders to ensure the Land Bank starts working. The bank will provide funding for the youth and women and other farmers to enhance productivity,” he said.
Cabinet has directed ministries to establish desks to support the youths.
“There is a lot of merit in sparing just a day to honour the work of a young farmer. Government wants to ensure agriculture retains its critical space in the economy and one way of achieving this is through reviving the young farmers’ clubs to ensure all agriculture graduates from colleges prioritise farming as a noble career rather than seeking employment,” he said.
VP Chiwenga applauded the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Fund for Agriculture development (IFAD) for investing resources through youths in agriculture.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said: “The demographic dividend from structured youth mainstreaming has massive positive multiplier effects in all spheres of the economy.
“Opportunities abound in the agriculture and other sectors for youth and we will make sure they are sufficiently empowered,” he said.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya acknowledged youth participation and input to the national development through agriculture.
“ZFU embraces young farmers. Young people in agriculture are rising and the evidence is here. There is need to train and equip young farmers with skills to produce,” he said.
Founder and chairman of Zimbabwe Young Farmers Clubs Zimbabwe Trust, Mr Philip Sewera said young people could contribute positively to national development goals through agriculture.
“Some of the national targets can be achieved by accelerating different sectors through youth participation. We have received national targets as the youths and we promise to deliver on those targets,” he said.
One of the winners, Mr Mhuri expressed gratitude to Government for recognising youths and coming up with ways of empowering the young farmers.