By Professor Sheunesu Mpepereki
THE economic development vision of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, dubbed ‘Vision 2030’, has been clearly articulated.
It remains for the different entities in the private and public sectors as well as individuals to translate that vision into concrete action programmes.
Such economic activity programmes must necessarily produce the quality goods and services that generate the wealth typical of a middle to upper income economy.
In this episode of our discussion, we continue to explore concrete ways of achieving Vision 2030 through agricultural skills training in the area of mechanisation.
While hand labour will always be appreciated and used, Vision 2030 envisages significant scaling up of productivity through deployment of appropriate mechanisation systems for the different categories of farm sizes.
The equipment operation, repair and maintenance training programme initiated by CMED (Pvt) Ltd is set to achieve a number of objectives as detailed below.
Farmers and their personnel need to be aware of the importance of preventive maintenance for farm equipment.
Benefits of preventive maintenance include prolonged life of the farm equipment, reduced down time and cost savings through timeous service/repairs.
There is need to impart technical skills to farm employees so as to reduce trial and error approaches.
The latter can reduce the profitability of farm enterprises.
The technical skills and knowledge base needs to be widened from a workshop set up to a broad base of farm employees.
This will ensure minimum disruption of farm operations when one key worker becomes unavailable.
The award of formal academic certification of trainees through University of Zimbabwe increases the stature and acceptability of the programme’s graduates.
Needless to say, the trainees must achieve the highest possible levels of competence consistent with the training received.
The formalised collaboration among the co-operating institutions in research, design, fabrication and evaluation of farm equipment will further strengthen the programme’s content and impact.
College curricula are often viewed as too theoretical, lacking practical skills mastery.
The training programme seeks to widen the practical skills spectrum of agricultural college and university graduates and other potential trainees so as to make them more effective in closing the yield gaps in agricultural value chains.
The course content is deliberately focused on developing skills in the operation of farm equipment such as the traditional tractor, plough, disc harrow, planter and boom sprayer.
Basic skills on farm equipment servicing such as lubrication are covered.
Also of vital importance is the development of basic skills in farm equipment repair and maintenance.
Farm equipment management is also an important area. Trainees are also grounded in basic farm workshop practices. Target participants for the programme include farmers and farm personnel.
For farmers, an appreciation of the importance of repair and maintenance is critical for decision making related to expenditure on equipment.
Vision 2030 envisages that more young people will move into agriculture as workers as well as farm owners.
Youths and school leavers needing empowerment with life skills can benefit from the training courses planned.
Agricultural students in colleges and universities are expected to raise performance standards in terms of farm productivity.
The equipment maintenance and related training programmes will arm them with practical hands-on skills allowing them to meaningfully integrate into farm activities.
Often extension personnel only look at crops but with the anticipated training, they will be able to advise farmers on proper equipment maintenance and use from a knowledgeable standpoint.
Training resources can become a challenge, especially where courses seek to provide practical experience.
The CMED and its partners will be looking for financial and material support in the form of training equipment in order to be in a position to realise the set objectives of providing technical support to Government’s Agricultural Mechanisation Programme.
The CMED Mount Hampden Training Centre is the hub for the pilot training programmes which will in time be rolled out to other provinces.
At this facility, trainees will undergo both theoretical and practical training.
The facility offers accommodation for students and has a piece of agricultural land on which practical operations are conducted. It is envisaged that training sessions could also be conducted at co-operating agricultural colleges and universities by arrangement.
Cognisant of Government’s devolution thrust to delivering service to all provinces, the training courses will be rolled out to all provinces and hosted at CMED provincial premises or those of cooperating partners.
In addition, training officers who are all artisans, will be deployed on a round robin basis to agricultural colleges and other centres to provide the training on site using equipment belonging to the hosting institutions.
Expertise will also be sought from stakeholder institutions to contribute to the training programme as and when there is need.
In conclusion, the CMED and its co-operating partners are contributing to the achievement of Vision 2030 through enhanced agricultural productivity by creating a strong technical skills support base at farm level through training farmers, their technical support staff, extension personnel and agricultural students on equipment operation and basic maintenance.
Therefore, an empowered agricultural sector will help deliver the fruits of Vision 2030.