Livingstone Marufu

HARARE – Government has announced plans to distribute farming inputs to 1,8 million small holder farmers ahead of the forthcoming summer cropping season to boost grain output.

The move to increase production of the country’s staple is one of government’s measures to cap the country’s import bill and ensure food security.

Lands, Agriculture and Lands Resettlement Deputy Minister Davis Marapira told Business Times that inputs under the Presidential Inputs Scheme will be availed to farmers by September. Zimbabwe’s summer cropping season starts around mid-November.

“Our national average yield per hectare has not been very good at 0,9 tonnes per hectare and encouraging farmers to start preparing their land now for the next summer cropping season will help the nation to attain higher yields.

“We are planning to distribute all inputs under the Presidential Input Support Scheme by September 30 to help our farmers with quick planning ahead of the new agriculture season,” said Marapira.

Government has already been given $150 million letters of credit by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to secure fertilisers for the forthcoming season.

Agritex officers are already on the ground to train and enhance farmers’ technical skills to achieve desired output per hectare.

Authorities are also pushing for farmers to attain a yield of five tonnes per hectare by 2020 and this will enable the country to achieve two million tonnes yearly.

Marapira also cautioned farmers against selling the inputs on the parallel market. He said smallholder farmers will get inputs packages of 10kg maize seed, 5kg sorghum seed, 50kg basal fertiliser and 50 kg of Ammonium Nitrate.

They are also going to get 10kg soya beans, sugar beans and cow peas to address the nutritional shortages at household level.


Cotton farmers begin to receive inputs

Government has also started distributing inputs to 400 000 small scale households as the country moves to support the recovery of the lucrative cotton industry.

Farmers in Gokwe and other cotton growing areas are receiving inputs including basal and top dressing fertilisers, planting seed and chemicals enough to cover a hectare.

Zimbabwe expects to improve output to above 100 000 tonnes from expected output of 74 000 this year.

Bid to remove overreliance on rain-fed agriculture

Marapira said Government was working on a cocktail of measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Among the measures is a new sustained irrigation development thrust anchored on completion of several outstanding dam projects that will provide water for irrigation.

Government’s interventions also include mounting centre pivots in every country’s district in an effort to mitigate drought and extreme weather patterns.

The interventions do not end there, as the State plans to drill boreholes in strategic A1 and communal farming areas.

Furthermore, the majority of local beneficiaries of Brazil’s $98 million More Food for Africa Programme have received agricultural equipment and have already put their crop in the ground.

The country has moved to increase irrigable land to 300 000 hectares from the current 150 000 hectares.

Meanwhile, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor John Mangudya, recently said the apex bank will continue to support water infrastructure development in the country to mitigate the effects of draught and increase production in the agriculture sector.

This comes at a time when the country is moving towards building of more water infrastructure to increase productivity on farms and eliminate the over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture, which can easily be affected by El Nino and La Nina effects.

“Drought induced effects have significant implications on maintenance of price and financial stability in the economy and hence the central bank interest in financing of the water infrastructure development.

“Despite the shortages of foreign currency to meet the growing demand of the economy, RBZ has been able to make foreign exchange allocation for the construction of Tugwi Mukosi Dam, Gwai Shangani Dam, Beitbridge Water System, Causeway Dam and Kunzvi Dam,” Mangudya said.

Agriculture, once the backbone of the economy before output plunged at the turn of the millennium has the potential to account for 50 percent of employment in the country.

The sector contributes 11 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and accounts 25 percent of the country’s total exports.