By Gift Bhowa
AS agriculture stakeholders brace for the summer cropping season, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has reaffirmed its support for local farmers as they seek to reposition the sector as drivers for economic transformation and ensure food security.
To date, FAO has facilitated for over
16 000 smallholder farmers to access credit for agriculture activities valued at US$11 million with seven Credit Co-operatives and Savings Associations formed.
Addressing stakeholders recently, FAO sub-regional co-ordinator for southern Africa Dr Patrick Kormawa said FAO would continue to support local farmers.
“As several countries are taking steps to reposition agriculture as a main driver for the economy, FAO is ready to support Zimbabwe in its quest not only to achieve food security for its citizens, but create wealth and prosperity,” he said.
Dr Kormawa urged Zimbabwe to invest in industrialisation of the agriculture sector as it is a source of livelihood for most households.
“It is estimated that 70 percent of the population in the region depends on agriculture for food, income and employment,” he said.
“For the region, just like any other regions on the continent, food and nutrition insecurity is fundamentally related to structural factors. Such factors include issues related to accessing affordable agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, water and seeds, leading to industrialisation, food security and nutrition.”
Government has been working with FAO to rehabilitated irrigation schemes in the driest regions in the country.
Beitbridge District, a farming community in Matabeleland South Province, has benefitted from the irrigation scheme.
Over six million Euros has been availed under the Smallholder Irrigation Scheme for the rehabilitation of 20 irrigation schemes in Manicaland and Matabeleland South provinces for promoting viable and sustainable irrigation development.
In a speech read on his behalf during the same occasion, Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Chief Air Marshal (Retired) Perence Shiri said Government has been making efforts to boost the agricultural sector.
He welcomed the support from FAO.
“We are moving towards agriculture industrialisation, we want agriculture to create jobs and promote food security,” he said.
“FAO has been partnering the ministry of agriculture and the Organisation has been assisting in funding Zimbabwe’s agricultural activities for over 35 years now.”
Since Government embarked on the Land Reform Programme in 2000, efforts continue to be made by resettled farmers to produce enough grain to meet annual requirements and increase production of cash crops.
The country requires two million metric tonnes of grain to meet its annual requirements.
However, the efforts are being hampered by the changing rainfall patterns and lack of resources.
In the past, Government has initiated programmes such as the Irrigation Development and Rehabilitation Scheme, Farm Mechanisation Programme and Presidential Well Wishers’ Special Agricultural Inputs Scheme to assist farmers.
During the past two seasons, the major highlight for the sector has been Command Agriculture, a Government-spearheaded programme, aimed at boosting food security.
Under the programme, Government targets to produce two million tonnes under 400 000ha.
At least 2 000 farmers from all parts of the country have benefitted from the Command Agriculture Scheme to ensure the country is food-self-sufficient.
The scheme targets farmers who are located near water bodies who can put a minimum of 200ha under maize per individual.
FAO representative from Eritrea, Ghenet Tesfazion, commended Government for creating a conducive environment for local farmers to thrive.
“I would like to compliment the developments and growth we are seeing in the agricultural sector of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Government has assisted farmers acquire advanced machinery and access seeds and fertilisers.”
Tesfazion said Eritrea was willing to learn from how Zimbabwe is managing its agriculture sector.
“Each and every country has its own weaknesses, problems and strengths,” he said.
“Zimbabwe has its own best practices and we have our own, so we are in Zimbabwe to learn and borrow new skills and ways to improve agriculture in Eritrea.”
Efforts continue to be made to revamp the agriculture sector.
Inadequate funds have been a major hindrance to maximum production, with smallholder farmers being the most affected as they do not have the requirements to access loans.
Lack of cheaper finance to procure inputs, the prevailing liquidity constraints and ever-changing rainfall patterns are drawing back crop production.
However, efforts continue to be made to maximise production in order to meet annual requirements and increase production of cash crops.