The Sunday News
Johnsias Mutonhori, Midlands Correspondent
FARMERS in the countryside have been encouraged to maximise agriculture production through adoption of market-oriented farming that unlocks rural industrialisation potential in line with National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) goals.
Speaking on the sidelines of the official opening of the 41-hectare Insukamini Irrigation Scheme in Lower Gweru last Wednesday, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Development Dr Anxious Masuka said irrigation schemes have the potential to unlock rural industrialisation and that should be enhanced by availability of markets. His remarks came at a time when most farmers are busy harvesting their crops and focus to be shifted to competitive markets of the agricultural produce.
“The market must inform production and it is in this regard that we brought on board the Agriculture Market Authority and Agricultural and Rural Development Authority for better agronomy and market viability. These are the agencies that must work with the communities to facilitate a business mindset for farming as a business so that we can maximise production and get better returns,” Dr Masuka said.
He urged farmers to run farming activities as businesses, where they are expected to apply business principles with an objective of generating profits.
“We have fully utilised plots such as this one but when you go down there you find some empty plots which is why we want a new business model that ensures that agriculture land is put to practical use. The Vision 2030 accelerator model was enunciated by President Mnangagwa in order to make sure that farming is a business and everyone is an economic participant,” he said.
Agricultural Marketing Authority of Zimbabwe CEO Mr Clever Isaya said it was gratifying that some of the produce from Insukamini Irrigation Scheme was of good quality and fit for the international market.
“Our mandate is to develop markets. We are developing local markets as well as international markets so that our farmers would be able to export their produce to other countries. What we have seen today at the Insukamini Irrigation Scheme is that farmers are producing high quality products such as chillies, green pepper, sugar beans among others which I consider to be fit for export. If the standard is maintained and replicated across the country, I can assure you that the market share of Zimbabwe’s agricultural produce will expand significantly,” he said.
One of the local farmers at the scheme Mr Abednigo Moyo testified that the scheme changed their livelihoods.
“This scheme has helped us especially as we are experiencing effects of climate change. We are now able to do farming all year round. Rainfall patterns have changed, so we are grateful for the Government intervention because our lives have changed. We expect to benefit more but I plead with the community to help preserve this initiative because it has sustained many families,” Mr Moyo said.
The Government has made a number of strides to support rural agricultural production in order to end poverty and hunger in communal areas. The Insukamini Irrigation Scheme was established in 1988 under the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) fund. Since then, no major rehabilitation has been done despite its canals and pumping units having outlived their lifespan. The scheme became one of the beneficiaries of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) through the Smallholder Revitalisation Programme (SIRP).