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Zimbabwe Government Efforts to Boost Agricultural Production Must Not Go To Nought

It is as clear as day that the Government fully acknowledges the role agriculture is predestined to play in the country’s march towards the attainment of an upper middle income economy as envisaged by Vision 2030.

This has been demonstrated through the numerous enablers or programmes the Government has come up with for every summer season, as it seeks to ensure the playing field is levelled for farmers to promote production and productivity.

It is not a secret that the agricultural terrain has changed tremendously, thanks to the support programmes that have seen most farmers embracing the concept of running farming as a business, which was introduced by the Second Republic.

The 2022/23 season has had its fair share of such programmes, some of which are a continuation of what was started three or so seasons ago.

It is exciting to note that most farmers have since managed to participate in one or more of such programmes with satisfactory results, especially considering that the initiatives directly address some of the problems they have been grappling with for decades.

In line with its drive to modernise agriculture, the Government is pushing for the mechanisation of operations, which means farmers have to let go of manually operated implements and adopt mechanised or motorised ones.

To make this possible, the Government found it proper to promote localised manufacturing of implements to ensure farmers can readily access them.

Of course, this also had some slight hiccup in the sense that imports of components for assembling implements attracted duty, which in turn influenced the pricing of the ultimate product.

On the one hand, the Government also lifted duty on finished products being imported into the country to ensure the pricing would be fair and affordable for farmers.

Government is also moving to complete the development of irrigation infrastructure and projects especially in the dry regions of the country where rains are always erratic every season.

To ensure that farmers get the true value of producing crops under irrigation, the Government subsequently directed that smallholder irrigation schemes be commercialised and run as business entities from which farmers generate incomes and earn a living.

This was followed up by the deployment of 450 business managers to assist farmers with the necessary business acumen in running their irrigation schemes.

The Government assigned the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) to oversee the recruitment and deployment of the managers so that they could work with Agritex extension officers and the farmers.

According to the first round of crop, livestock and fisheries assessment (CLAFA 1) for the 2022/23 summer season, a total of 324 irrigation schemes out of 450 were in 2022 commercialised against a target of 200 by ARDA.

The Government then followed this up with the capacitation of extension officers by providing them with tablets, servicing and maintenance of motorcycles to enable them to effectively discharge their extension duties as well as train farmers in the various programmes that were introduced to boost production.

This marked a giant step towards ensuring that all households have individualised agricultural databases (baseline), while each household is also monitored for development. The provision of reliable digital gadgets to extension officers is meant to improve service delivery.

Tablets will enable extension officers to communicate effectively, for instance, by forming social media groups with farmers, which will make it possible for them to discuss with many individuals at once.

Such groups are playing a very important role in terms of information dissemination. Information is critical in successful agricultural operations hence the need to appreciate the fact that the Government is making efforts towards making it possible for information to flow easily even where there is no physical involvement of the people.

Most farmers are conversant with using smart phones and are part of many WhatsApp groups, which enables extension officers to even convene virtual meetings and discuss pertinent issues with them to boost production.

The Government did not stop there but went on to introduce the concept of one farmer field school per village to catalyse agricultural transformation.

To date farmer field schools have been established in 23 000 villages out of the 35 000 hamlets countrywide.

This development was also accompanied by the introduction of veterinary field schools, which culminated in the establishment of 5 000 of them across the country at every dip tank.

However, establishing both farmer field and veterinary field schools is one thing and fully utilising them is another.

While the Government is intensifying the use of both the farmer field and veterinary schools alongside the employment of digital platforms such as the soils and agro-ecological digital one to improve on agricultural information dissemination, the farmers must make it easy for extension officers to facilitate the gadgets’ use with positive results.

It is naturally very frustrating for the extension officer to call for a virtual meeting, for example, and no one attends yet such meetings present opportunities for them to share important information on various farming matters.

At the moment, the key issue that the Government and other stakeholders are seized with is to climate-proof agriculture and boost production and ultimately achieve food security while meeting industry’s demand for raw materials as well.

Climate-proofing interventions for agriculture should be intensified across all farmer categories with emphasis on the smallholders.

The Government has further made it a priority for farmers to practise diversification of agricultural enterprises in the face of the growing climate change inspired challenges that are frustrating efforts to produce crops effectively.

It is also advocating the adoption of drought tolerant crops such as indigenous and traditional grains especially in marginal areas of the country that receive very little rainfall.

This has seen packages for the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme coming with an assortment of cropping options although the quantities are varying according to the farmer’s agro-ecological region.

Besides making sure farmers do not waste valuable time looking for inputs and missing the productive stages of the season, the Government’s support programmes are also demonstrating to the farmers why it is crucial for them to choose their agricultural enterprises guided by weather and climate information.

Such information is vital in deciding the types of crops and livestock options to go with.

Essentially, farmers must intensify agricultural production by increasing productivity rather than area (agricultural intensification).

In a way, this also explains why the Government recently decided to introduce annual production and productivity returns to guide production and investment while a statutory instrument to make it mandatory for A1 and A2 farmers to submit these annual returns will also be issued.

This is an audit on how the farmers are utilising their land, which will decide whether they deserve to have the entire farms all to themselves or should share with others or even be moved to a smaller land portions that they can fully utilise.

Source: https://allafrica.com/stories/202303070151.html

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