Government assures food security amid dire crop situation

18 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Government assures food security amid dire crop situation A dejected pair in a dried out maize field in this image from online sources. The Government is putting in place a number of sustainable interventions to ensure food security across the country amid indications that the crop situation is ranging from fair to dire

The Sunday News

Sione Amidu, Gwanda Correspondent

THE Government is putting in place a number of sustainable interventions to ensure food security across the country amid indications that the crop situation is ranging from fair to dire as the effects of El Nino kick in.

Among the cocktail of measures aimed to climate-proof the agriculture sector and ensure the country is food-secure, all Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution are meeting monthly to come up with strategies and share notes on how they can mitigate against the possible impacts of drought in their provinces.

One such meeting was held on Friday at a leisure resort about 60 kilometres out of Beitbridge in Matabeleland South Province where Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka assured the nation the food security situation was under control.

 “We meet for our monthly interactive meeting with Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution and the topical issue is the current El Nino induced drought. We get reports from across the country where the crop situation is indicated to be ranging from fair to dire. 

“This season has clearly lived up to the very harsh El Nino phenomenon that was forecasted. We did say that the season will be delayed but it has also been indicated that the phenomenon will be short and sharp. The current weather models are not indicating rain until the end of the month and our crops by that stage would have been severely stressed.”

He said there was a need to eliminate household-induced food deficit, while farmers continue to be advised to grow crops according to their agro-ecological regions. The Minister said Cabinet has directed that the Grain Marketing Board (GMB)’s strategic grain reserve must be increased to 1,5 million tonnes for food security. 

As of yesterday (Thursday), GMB only had 200 000 metric tonnes of grain, but because of the changed structure deliberation and marketing arrangements, GMB is no longer the monopoly purchaser of grains. GMB now only purchases surpluses from Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme producers and also self-financed farmers. AFC and CBZ (banks) no longer go to GMB but direct to contractors and the private sector. 

“We have a policy that 40 percent of the annual raw material requirement must be procured through contracting farmers. The private sector holds 526 000 metric tonnes that were marketed last year, while GMB has under 200 000 metric tonnes a 39 percent share of marketed crops,” said Dr Masuka. 

Dr Masuka said the Government was also constructing dams across the country as it was working on increasing the area under summer irrigation for food security. He said food security at national level was achieved through accelerated irrigation rehabilitation and development. 

“That is why we are constructing 13 more dams to the 10 600 dams we have in the country. We are potentially able to irrigate two million hectares and currently, we have developed an additional irrigation area of 208  000 hectares, with 75 000 hectares for summer irrigation. We want to make sure that 350 000 hectares will be available for summer irrigation so that we produce 1.8 million metric tonnes which is what this country requires annually for human consumption which is why we want to do accelerated irrigation development.”

The Minister said the Government had also introduced another strategy where in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare it would assist rural households through trainings to improve food security.  

He said after undergoing trainings and planting three plots under Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, those that wish to access social welfare would be assisted, with 71 000 tonnes to be distributed. 

Meanwhile, Dr Masuka also warned those who were settling on land illegally that they were attracting the wrath of the law. 

“In the context of the recent nationwide police blitz under the banner ‘No to land barons’, we had discussions with both Vice-Presidents and there are further directions that they have given. 

“There is now an inter-ministerial committee that has been constituted and I am chairing it, we will be meeting on Monday to receive a report from the Commissioner General of Police on the operation after which an announcement will be made,” he said.

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