Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Government is committed to transform agricultural systems to reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farming communities to food and nutrition insecurity, climate change effects and economic shocks and ensure the sector fully contributes to the Vision 2030 agenda, a Cabinet minister has said.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said this at the commissioning of the 30 vehicles received from the International Fund for Agricultural Development towards the implementation of the Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP).
The programme is being implemented by the departments of Agritex, Irrigation, Mechanisation and Strategic Policy Planning and Business Development to improve extension service delivery to farmers.
Agritex will get 21 vehicles, Irrigation (7), Programme Co-ordination Unit (6) and the Department of Strategic Planning (1).
The SIRP seeks to contribute to the resilience of smallholder farming communities in Natural Regions 3, 4 and 5 in the provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland South and the Midlands.
The SIRP is targeting 15 000 irrigating households, 12 500 dryland farmers, 2 000 youth and 500 extension workers.
In a speech read on his behalf by Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos, Minister Shiri said the vehicles were an important milestone in collective efforts to strengthen the ministry’s capacity to effectively execute its mandate of promoting agricultural production, productivity and ensuring sustained national food and nutrition security.
“The programme targets to rehabilitate approximately 125 irrigation schemes, covering 6 100 hectares in the four provinces.
“The SIRP is a seven-year programme being funded by Government, IFAD, and Opec Fund for Agricultural Development to the tune of US$51,6 million.
“The programme involves the rehabilitation and expansion of selected irrigation schemes and supporting the irrigation schemes to increase production and productivity, incomes, access to agricultural markets and improving access to financial services,” he said.
He said the SIRP will also provide in-house training for ministry staff, procure 35 vehicles, 133 motobrikes and assorted information technology equipment to ensure the farmer is accessible despite his or her location.
“I thank IFAD and OFID forn partnering with the ministry in supporting agriculture development which remains central to sustainable economic development in Zimbabwe.
Agritex director Mr Bernard Mache said the vehicles will help the department reach out to many farmers through its extension workers.
“We would want to strengthen irrigation management committees and it will be easier to reach out to the irrigation schemes in the provinces,” he said.
Director for irrigation development in the ministry Dr Conrad Zawe said they had developed a fleet management manual to ensure an improved lifespan for the vehicles.
“We had a shortage of vehicles in the provinces. We were hiring expensive vehicles and now that we have our own vehicles we will improve services to farmers,” he said.