Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
Government is in the process of negotiating with foreign partners to fund its proposed farming mechanisation programmes as it forges ahead to fill the void of agricultural machinery in the country.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Davis Marapira said the country’s farmers have over the years failed to attain their potential yields due to the drastic shortage of farming implements.
“It should be noted that as a country we do not only have a severe shortage of tractors but of various farming implements as well and this has affected our production over the years,” said Deputy Minister Marapira.
He said the Government was working at re-engaging Brazil to extend its More Food for Africa Programme which saw the South American country providing Zimbabwe with a $98 million facility for the procurement of irrigation equipment, tractors and various implements.
The partnership programme was in the form of a soft loan to the people of Zimbabwe to help farmers to build resilience, kick-start production and enhance household incomes.
“We are working on a number of facilities and we are looking at pursuing our co-operation with Brazil through its More Food for Africa Programme as well as seeking assistance from Belarus and India for implements such as combine harvesters and driers. We are looking at having these facilities in the shortest possible time so that our farmers will be having adequate tillage support equipment as well as harvesting equipment,” said Deputy Minister Marapira.
He, however, said the Government was satisfied with preparations for the 2017/18 summer cropping season.
“We are very happy with the way farming preparations for this season have gone so far. Of course we did face challenges due to shortage of fertilisers but we managed to get some assistance from RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) to import and cover the deficit,” said Deputy Minister Marapira.
Matabeleland North Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) provincial officer Mr Dumisani Nyoni acknowledged that there was a massive shortage of tractors that has hampered tillage preparations.
“Tractors are a challenge because most of the farmers rely on hiring from others while others have been getting them from DDF (District Development Fund) but as you are aware DDF is incapacitated at the moment while most of the tractors that were allocated to farmers under the Mechanisation Programme have broken down. If one relies on hiring it tends to derail their preparations or plans because at this moment in time those that have tractors are overwhelmed and can’t cope with the demand,” said Mr Nyoni.
Umguza Farmers Association chairman Mr Antony Kepe Dube said the shortage of tractors would have a negative impact on the hectarage to be cropped and anticipated yield.
“Most farmers have received inputs under the Command Agriculture Programme though the inputs are still short. However, what’s worrying us is the shortage of tractors for tilling and we are fast running out of time and since the rains aren’t promising this season irrigation schemes should be a priority but still the tractors are needed. We spoke to DDF but we didn’t get a positive response,” said Mr Dube.-@DNsingo