The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo and Nokukhanya Moyo, Farming Reporters
FARMERS have praised the Command Agriculture programme as the best support scheme which Government has ever introduced in its bid to improve the country’s food security.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union president Mr Abdul Nyathi said the Command Agriculture programme played an integral part in availing inputs to farmers as over the years most of them were financially incapacitated to purchase on their own.
“We are impressed with the Command Agriculture programme because it solved a lot of problems, for example, farmers were not given money by banks but the Government rescued them and they produced a huge harvest compared to other years,” he said.
Mr Nyathi said the anticipated 2016/17 bumper harvest should motivate financial institutions to consider funding farmers in future. Most of the farmers that benefited under the Government’s Land Reform Programme are struggling to borrow from banks due to lack of security of tenure or title deeds while those with 99-year leases cannot use them as collateral.
“Command Agriculture has proved that it is workable with farmers. The Government is able to take back its money because of the good harvest that we produced this year. Banks have also learnt that farmers are able to remit like what they are doing to the Government now. I am therefore encouraging all farmers to take up Command Agriculture even in the coming years because it made us proud,” said Mr Nyathi.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said the Command Agriculture programme managed to empower farmers but hinted that there was a need to address other issues that threatened to affect the success of the scheme.
“When Command Agriculture started it took off very well but along the way there were short supplies of fertilisers up until the Government intervened . . . Commercial farmers had no capacity to have high crop yields until Command Agriculture came.
“The majority of the farmers were under Command Agriculture and I hope they will continue to be. It empowered farmers although they also should improve in certain areas in the next season. It is a success and we believe that it will be greater in the season,” said Mr Chabikwa.
He said the onus were on farmers to invest in the purchasing of modern machinery so as to improve on both efficiency and potential yield. One of the farmers that benefited under the Command Agriculture programme, Mr Antony Khephe Dube said had the model been introduced years back, the country would be self sufficient in terms of food.
“Command Agriculture is one the best things that has ever happened to farmers since Independence because we were able to crop maize with the inputs we were allocated and most of us are looking forward to a bumper harvest. One wish is that this programme should have started long back. If only it had been ongoing we would not have had problems to deliver produce to the Grain Marketing Board because in the past we were failing due to lack of cash,” said Mr Dube.
He said he was expecting to harvest five tonnes of maize per hectare from the four hectares he cropped under the programme.
“I am expecting five tonnes per hectare and I am looking forward to harvesting in the first week of May,” said Mr Dube.
Speaking at a field day at Mjayeli Farm in Umguza last week, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Cain Mathema said the Command Agriculture programme should be integrated into other sectors of the economy.
“We are very happy with what the President (Mugabe) has done through introducing the Command Agriculture and even the Presidential Inputs Scheme. However, Command Agriculture must not be isolated, it must be integrated into other sectors of the economy . . .,” said Cde Mathema.
The owner of Mjayeli Farm, Mr Kalani Ndlovu heaped praise on the Government’s agricultural initiative stating that it would go a long way in ensuring that the country will be self-sufficient in terms of food provision.
“Under Command Agriculture, the Government allocated us seed, fertilisers, diesel and herbicides and we only supplemented with a few inputs. We made sure that since the Government had entrusted us to produce we shouldn’t disappoint and we didn’t.
“The Government also has a ready market that once we harvest we send to the Grain Marketing Board and a certain portion will be deducted towards the payment of the inputs we received for free,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu is expecting to harvest more than 100 tonnes of maize from his 14-hectare field.
“The Government also ensured that we got the services of Agritex (Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services) extension officers to impart us with professional advice for free. We intend to have them until we harvest and store.
We are not looking at anything below 100 tonnes from our 14 hectares of maize,” he said.
Matabeleland North provincial Agritex officer Mr Dumisani Nyoni also commended the Command Agriculture programme although he hinted its overall success was hampered by natural calamities.
“We are very satisfied with what we have achieved through the programme. Of course there were challenges such as the fall armyworm outbreak and then there were effects of water logging due to the incessant rains in some parts of the province but we are very happy,” he said.