The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo and Mthabisi Tshuma, Farming Reporters
THE Government is calling on the private sector to partner it in its tillage programme as it seeks to expedite preparations for the 2019/20 farming season.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Peter Haritatos said the Government was ready to enter into Public Private Partnerships with other players in an effort to ensure the success of its tillage programme aimed at assisting vulnerable farmers in various parts of the country.
“The tillage programme is being spearheaded by DDF (District Development Fund). It is truly a great programme that will focus on assisting with land preparations for vulnerable households who lost cattle through disease or lack of grazing. I would like to encourage the private sector to come on board and also assist in this noble programme as there is a great opportunity to get involved through Public Private Partnerships when it comes to tillage in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Dep Minister Haritatos said the tillage programme has started in various parts of the country after the ministry managed to mobilise fuel.
“In Matabeleland South three districts were chosen namely Gwanda, Umzingwane and Beitbridge. Together with DDF our ministry has managed to mobilise fuel for all districts. The programme has indeed kicked off,” he said.
DDF is spearheading the programme after it was allocated $2 million for the national exercise which is running up to January. The programme is expected to cover about 250 000 hectares countrywide.
Matabeleland South DDF provincial co-ordinator, Mr Moment Malandu confirmed that the tillage programme started last week in his area of jurisdiction with 28 tractors being distributed to work in the selected districts.
“We have started the tillage programme in the province after the Government released some money to assist smallholder farmers. So far we have managed to cover 38,5 hectares and we are set to do more as we have 28 tractors on the ground with others under repair as we want to fully assist the farmers. For now, we are working on Gwanda, Beitbridge and Umzingwane communal areas and resettlement areas. The places were chosen by the Government as being the most drought affected areas in the province but we expect to cover the whole province. The programme is targeting the farmers who got the Presidential Input Scheme,” he said.
The 2019/20 Presidential Input Scheme is targeting 154 210 smallholder farmers in Matabeleland South Province.
The inputs package consists of a 10-kilogramme bag of maize seed, 5kg sorghum or pearl millet seed, 50kg basal fertiliser, 50kg top dressing fertiliser and chemicals to control fall army worm.
According to our sister publication, The Herald, DDF has also embarked on a tillage programme in Buhera District for farmers who lost their cattle to a tick-borne disease known as January disease. This comes as more than 4 000 cattle have been reported dead from the disease, which is caused by not dipping cattle regularly.
There has been a severe shortages of chemicals that has disrupted the communal dipping programme, with cattle going for more than two months without dipping. There have been reports that livestock in Makoni and other districts have also succumbed to the disease.
As a result, many farmers have been left without draught power. Agricultural Technical and Extension Services Department provincial head Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa said although the tillage programme could not cover all affected farmers due to limited equipment, it would go a long way in assisting them to plant their crops this season and prevent hunger.
“We are also encouraging our farmers to focus on conservation agriculture where hoes are mainly used to make holes instead of turning the whole soil,” she said.
DDF provincial head Mr Robert Chawatama said they would till 0,4 hectares for each farmer.
“We are assisting those farmers with livestock that succumbed to January disease by tilling 0,4 hectares, which is one acre, for free so that they can get started. In most cases most of them no longer have any form of draught power,” he said.