THE arrival of the first batch of tractors in the country under the US$50 million deal between Government and global tractor manufacturer, John Deere, is a shot in the arm for the agricultural sector.
The deal which was concluded in November 2018, will result in the country receiving 1 300 tractors, 80 combine harvesters and other agricultural implements.
The country requires 40 000 tractors, but only has 12 000 of which 9 000 are functional with the rest requiring repairs.
Since Government embarked on the Land Reform Programme in 2000 efforts continue to be made by stakeholders 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.
President Mnangagwa is on record saying the Land Reform programme remained a fundamental cog to the country’s independence and sovereignty hence Government was committed to fine-tuning strategies to enhance land utilisation, equitable access and productivity.
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.
“The Presidential Input Support Scheme and Smart Agriculture strategies outlined in the Agriculture Recovery Plan, are consolidated to enable beneficiaries under these schemes to excel,” President Mnangagwa said in his televised Independence Day speech in April.
“Meanwhile, the mechanisation project is on course, with more agricultural equipment coming in from across the world.”
Critics have labelled resettled farmers ‘cry babies’ who are always looking for hand-outs from Government and are not able to sustain themselves.
Those against the Land Reform Programme tend to compare the resettled farmers, who have been on the farm for only 18 years, to white farmers who only began to make profits after more than 40 years on the land.
White farmers, especially during the early days received massive support from their government which poured money into their farms.
Since then The Land Bank, now the Agribank, increased loans and there was a three-year suspension on all repayments.
The white farmers were given loans worth $12 000 per farm per year which is equivalent to US$40 000.
It is against this background, Government has seen the importance of supporting the resettled farmers.
Resettled farmers have often been blamed for lacking the requisite expertise to ensure maximum production.
However, through determination and perseverance they have soldiered on with strategies to ensure increase in knowledge and expertise being put in place.
Agricultural colleges have been set up where farmers can receive training.
Coalition of Agricultural Graduates of Zimbabwe (CAGOZ) chairperson Dickson Kubvakacha suggested that since the country’s economy was agro-based, strategies to improve the sector should be given first priority.
He said the association was ready to support Government’s efforts to boost agriculture.
“We urge Government to embrace some of our recommendations that include that all A2 farms be managed by qualified managers, preferably from CAGOZ, to ensure that these farms are fully utilised,” said Kubvakacha.
“As CAGOZ we are ready to take our Agriculture to another level by filling the void that was left by the former white commercial farmers.
“Land can be leased to CAGOZ for the opening up of serious commercial production zones across the provinces.”
There have been growing calls for Government to come up with a meaningful contribution towards adoption of new technologies to improve the agricultural sector.
The mechanisation programme comes at a time Government has put in place measures to rehabilitate irrigation facilities as part of efforts to improve production.
Since the launch of Command Agriculture, joint ventures have been put in place to finance the development of irrigation schemes in all provinces.
Through Private Public Partnerships (PPPs), Government worked on irrigation schemes under ARDA.
Under the Brazil Loan Facility, in some cases Government resuscitated (modified and added new infrastructure to the existing) or revitalised (completely changed systems as they were outdated).
Under the More Food for Africa Programme, Brazil irrigation scheme facility of US$98 million facility, Government has already mounted $69 million irrigation schemes across the country.
Government has extended the Brazil More Food for Africa irrigation facility to mission schools, churches and prisons, among other institutions under Phase Two of the programme as the food security net is cast wider.
By revitalising and moving to the use of pivot irrigation facilities, it means changing to new technology and this would help improve on our average yields per ha.
Government is targeting putting 400 000ha under irrigation in the next three years.
To date, nearly 150 000ha are under functional irrigation systems with 18 schemes under ARDA having been revamped.
Revamped irrigation schemes include Antelope, Insukamini, Siyaso (Mvuma), Ruchanyu (Shurugwi), Hama Mavhaire (Silobela) and Fair Acres (Kwekwe) which has 500 hectares (ha) under centre pivot irrigation.
In Manicaland there is Bonde, Nyanyadzi and Knowe, while Bulawayo Kraal is in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province.
Masvingo has Mushandike, Marowa, Nandi and Sanganai Irrigation schemes.
In Mashonaland West, Doreen Prite (Kadoma) and Sanyati are among schemes now fully functional.
Government also undertook Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) Projects in areas such as Chiduku-Tikwiri in Manicaland, Chitora in Mash East and Fuwe Panganayi in Masvingo to shield farmers from drought.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with support from the European Union is expected to disburse US$2 million for ongoing works at 20 irrigation schemes in Matabeleland South and Manicaland provinces.
An amount of US$3,3 million will be disbursed by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), for ongoing works at Nyakomba Irrigation Project Block A.
Through the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, FAO will also disburse $3,4 million towards 14 irrigation schemes in Masvingo province.
For a country that boasts 15,9 million hectares (ha) of arable land, surely the adoption of new technologies in agriculture will see the country meeting its yearly grain target of two million tonnes.