Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Zimbabwe is working on increasing the hectarage of wheat from 43 000 to 70 000 to ensure self-sufficiency, save foreign currency and create more jobs for youths and women.
This was said by Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri in a speech read on his behalf by Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos during the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) wheat compact launch.
The project, which was launched by the Ministry of Lands in collaboration with International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areaas (ICARDA) within the framework of the African Development Bank (AfDB) promotes the adoption of improved technologies and best wheat production management practices through the implementation of the Innovation Platforms.
The Ministry’s Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS) is the local lead institution while ICARDA is the implementing agency.
The wheat compact is being implemented in seven African countries including Zimbabwe.
Minister Shiri said the country was spending $83 million in foreign currency per year in importing wheat when it could expand domestic production over the coming years thanks to the abundance of water sources.
“It is physically possible and economically feasible for Zimbabwe to grow more wheat and transform the sector thereby increasing incomes for farmers and stakeholders, creating jobs for the youth and women and achieving greater wheat self-sufficiency through domestic production by 2025. Zimbabwe has the second largest amounts of conserved water resources in Southern Africa.
“Government through its special wheat production programme for import substitution (Command Agriculture) has set a target for unleashing a wheat transformation by boosting domestic production as a viable solution to reverse the unsustainable wheat imports and for achieving greater wheat self-sufficiency by 2025,” he said.
Minister Shiri said interventions from Command Agriculture contributed about 80 percent of national wheat deliveries.
He said the TAAT project would complement Government efforts to increase wheat production, productivity and ensuring wheat self-sufficiency.
“TAAT project is coming soon after another successful project titled ‘The Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) Project, which was successfully implemented in Zimbabwe from the 2014 to 2016 and promoted the adoption of improved technologies and best wheat production management practices through the implementation of the innovation platforms,” he said.
The TAAT programme includes eliminating extreme poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, achieving food sufficiency, and turning Africa into a net food exporter and putting Africa in step with global commodity and agricultural value chains.
Minister Shiri said the TAAT goal was in line with the mission of the ministry which is aimed at achieving and sustaining high agricultural productivity and production, market access, incomes as well as food and nutrition security.
“Wheat is the second most important agricultural commodity in Zimbabwe for food security in terms of quantity and calories consumed. The demand for the crop has been increasing rapidly due to change in food preferences, high rate of urbanisation and increase in income.”
The average wheat production in the country is 158 000 tonnes against a national requirement of 400 000 tonnes.
Minister Shiri applauded the public and private research institutions in Zimbabwe for developing and releasing high-yielding wheat varieties.
“Zimbabwe has a well-trained cadre of research and agricultural extension specialists and a highly entrepreneurial private sector which if adequately resourced and motivated can fast track delivery of off-the-shelf and ready to use best-bet technical innovations and best practices for transforming the wheat value chain.
“Government values the partnership between DR&SS and ICARDA in the implementation of the TAAT wheat compact, and it is our wish that this relationship is strengthened since this dovetails with our national development policies which aim to increase food security and nutrition and also productivity of all crops. The financial support from the African Development Bank is acknowledged,” he said.