Government moves to promote traditional grains

Chris Mahove

Government is embarking on a food systems transformation programme that will see production of traditional grains encouraged among the farming population, especially the youth.

This was revealed by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Anxious Masuka at the weekend.

Minister Masuka was speaking at the 2021 National Irrigation Prize Giving Ceremony at Rupike Irrigation Scheme in Masvingo.

He said government is currently reviving irrigation schemes as part of t its deliberate and broader thrust to climate-proof agriculture to assure household and national food security, eliminate grain imports, promote and diversify exports, create employment, enhance value addition and beneficiation, and accelerate the improvement of rural livelihoods.

Government, he said, would ensure complementary efforts focus on conservation agriculture through the sustainable intensification of production through Pfvmvudza/Intwasa which, which he said would  be refined this year so that crops grown and livestock raised in an agro-ecological region were determined by requirements of the agro-ecological region, and not by what a farmer wanted.

“Equally, government support will be refined to reflect this principle. Attendant, to this effort is the need for a food systems transformation so that traditional grains can find favour among our population, and especially the youth. In the large holder sector, government is accelerating irrigation rehabilitation and development through dam construction and infrastructure development,” he said.

Masuka said it was under this context that 450 irrigation schemes were being transformed through overhauling the governance systems so that they were run as viable businesses, and assure their sustainability.

“This is why ARDA is now the designated business manager for these schemes. This is the new ARDA – transformed to deliver rural development.   I am informed that already 287 of the 450 irrigation schemes have been transitioned to ARDA management and that many of these have become viable businesses again,” he said.

He said the revived Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), and others, were ready to work with all farmers, noting that the AFC would provide loans for farmers who run irrigation schemes as businesses while ARDA would deploy scheme business managers to assist the farmers.

He said AFC, AMA, ARDA, ZINWA, GMB and TIMB had been transformed and rebranded to reposition them as key institutions that rendered the much needed support for rural development, adding that communities should undertake exchange visits to get an understanding of why this new business model was being advocated.

Minister Masuku said the vision of a prosperous and empowered upper middle income society by 2030 was anchored on a vibrant and robust agricultural sector.

“Rural agricultural development must cause rural industrialisation. Rural industrialisation should lead to rural development. That rural development must accelerate the attainment of Vision 2030,” he said.

There are increasing calls from government and civil society for the production of small grains, such as sorghum, millet, and rapoko instead of maize production in order to enhance food security against the background of climate change in Zimbabwe.

The irrigation schemes competition was introduced to motivate farmers, and to capacitate them for improved production, productivity and profitability. 

Minister Masuka, however, called for the reformation of the competition to include parameters such as progress towards Vision 2030 by measuring the upliftment of communities, improvement in incomes and social status, food security and other relevant matrices.

He said the winning scheme must be that using the new model of the Vision 2030 Accelerator Model to better align with the President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Vision, adding that the judging panel must also be widened to reflect this thrust.

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