Way forward agriculture

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THE rolling out of the Land Reform Programme, in full, by Government in 2000 was a turning point in the country’s history as it not only empowered the indigenes but fulfilled one of the main agendas of the liberation struggle.

Zimbabweans welcomed the programme but Britain and her allies were not impressed as they had been benefiting from the land at the expense of the locals.
And they embarked on a drive to sabotage the programme.
In 2009 when the Inclusive Government was created the West saw it as an opportunity to intensify their drive to sabotage and tarnish the image of the resettled farmers.
Government had in the past been the major supporter of resettled farmers but the Inclusive Government cut the support.
The finance ministry then headed by Tendai Biti from the MDC-T deliberately underfunded the agriculture sector in a bid to further the Western agenda of destroying the ‘new’ farmers.
By not funding the sector, resettled farmers failed to maximise on production and the West was given basis to discredit resettled farmers and call for the return of former white commercial farmers.
The woes of the farmers have been compounded by recurrent droughts, erratic rainfall patterns and chiefly lack of adequate funding.
Thus in recent years the production fell below required levels.
Zimbabwe requires two million metric tonnes of grain to meet its yearly requirements.
During the 2012/2013 season maize producers missed the target and produced less than 1, 2 million tonnes.
The Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Ministry reported that hectarage for major food crops declined to 1, 4 million hectares from 1, 9 million hectares planted in 2011.
Last year, the agriculture sector was allocated US$148 million which falls far below the US$800 million
that had been requested by the sector.
The agricultural sector is struggling to rebound, having registered a modest 4, 6 percent growth in 2012.
It is, however, projected to grow by 6, 4 percent in 2013.
Agriculture accounts for 15 percent of GDP and contributes 16 percent to export earnings
The 2013 harmonised elections brought joy to the resettled farmers as the ZANU PF victory has guaranteed them of desperately needed support.
Unlike the past five seasons where promises were not fulfilled as Biti maintained the Government had no money, this time around farmers have been assured of delivery.
For the forthcoming season Government has availed a US$161 million farming input support facility.
The scheme is expected to benefit 1, 6 million households, mainly communal, old resettlement, small-scale and A1 farmers.
Under the scheme each household will receive 10 kilogrammes (kg) maize or small grain, 50kg Compound D fertilizer, 50kg Ammonium Nitrate fertiliser and 50kg lime.
In the past seasons concerns have also been raised by farmers over inadequate support received from other stakeholders such as banks and contractors.
This has greatly affected the output resulting in the country having to import grain to make up for the deficit.
But this season the private sector has shown confidence in the ‘new’ Government heeding calls to support the agriculture sector.
The Bankers Association of Zimbabwe is injecting US$620 million into the sector, with CBZ chipping in with US$100 million.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will pump in US$19,25 million that is expected to assist more than 77 000 small holder farmers.
Addressing farmers last week in Mhangura Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for Cropping, Mechanisation and Irrigation Davies Marapira said Government was committed to support farmers.
“We are aware of the challenges farmers are facing and this season emphasis is on increasing production,” he said.
“A lot needs to be done if the sector is to achieve targeted production.
“Farmers should know that the ministry is ready to assist with any technical assistance.”
Marapira said irrigation remained a key aspect if the agriculture sector is to grow.
He urged farmers to run farms as businesses.
“It is important that farmers observe things such as planting dates, having their soils tested to ensure they plant the right variety of seeds and apply the correct amount of fertiliser,” said Marapira.
“Farmers need to work with sizeable plots so that they can maximise on production.”
Over the past seasons farmers have been skeptical of contractors whom they have accused of short-changing them.
Marapira said contractors were welcome but there was need for farmers to get a full understanding of contracts before signing them.
With the preparations for the 2013/2014 summer cropping season already at an advanced stage, it is hoped the season will be a success.

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