Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government has started mobilising resources to bankroll the Command Agriculture Programme in the livestock sector as part of a broader food security thrust in line with Zim-Asset.
The Minister of State in Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, Cde Clifford Sibanda, said this yesterday during a field day at Arda-Trek Antelope Estate in Maphisa.
Cde Sibanda, who was representing the Vice President, said Government was already working on modalities to introduce Command Agriculture in the livestock sector.
“We have already started mobilising resources for a livestock production programme similar to what we did in the cropping sector.
“We are introducing Command Agriculture in the livestock sector so that we fully boost national food security in line with the objective of Zim-Asset under the food security and nutrition cluster,” said Cde Sibanda.
In the 2016/17 cropping season, 480 hectares were put under maize at the estate, which has also embarked on a cattle breeding and restocking exercise.
Cde Sibanda said once resources for livestock Command Agriculture were available, Government would roll out the programme in all the livestock producing regions mainly Matabeleland, the Midlands and Masvingo provinces.
“Not all the country’s regions are suitable for crop production. The southern part of the country that covers Matabeleland North and South, the Midlands and Masvingo provinces, traditionally receive low rainfall except for this year when the regions received significant amount of rain,” he said.
Cde Sibanda said Matabeleland South province was set to benefit more under the livestock Command Agriculture initiative once the programme is implemented.
“Matabeleland South province is known for cattle production and therefore, the region is set to benefit more once livestock Command Agriculture gets underway. The programme will be implemented in the same way as Command Agriculture in the crop sector,” he said.
The minister said nationwide assessments have revealed that the Command Agriculture programme has been successfully implemented.
He said the Government targets to achieve bumper harvest for two consecutive seasons in order to guarantee food security.
“In that regard, those farming under the Command Agriculture initiative will be assisted in putting up irrigation infrastructure to enable them to cultivate crops all year round.
“Command Agriculture supported by the Presidential Input Support Scheme has been successful, so the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development will be announcing at the appropriate time the national yield the country would have achieved this cropping season,” said Cde Sibanda.
He however said many farmers across the country had indicated that they are expecting to harvest slightly above 10 tonnes per hectare.
Cde Sibanda once again warned those near water bodies for irrigation but were not utilising the water that they would soon be relocated elsewhere to pave way for Command Agriculture.
“I would also want to urge those that got loans to pay back the loans in order to promote economic growth,” he said.
Welcoming delegates who included several Government officials, traditional leaders, and villagers from Maphisa, Rural Development, Promotion and Preservation of National Culture and Heritage Minister, Cde Abedinico Ncube said:
“Our region (Matabeleland South) is mainly characterised by prolonged dry spell with the exception of this farming season. Farming under irrigation is a win-win scenario in this province.
“The partnership ARDA has forged with Trek has set a precedent that has to be reckoned. As a province we are proud to be making efforts to increase cereal production in the country,” said Minister Ncube.
He said their goal as a province was to end the importation of grain. Command Agriculture is a Government scheme introduced in the 2016/17 cropping season to ensure food self-sufficiency following years of successive droughts.
The country has since suspended grain imports as the country has enough strategic grain reserves and is expecting a bumper harvest.
Under the scheme, the Government together with the private sector has harnessed enough funds to finance Command Agriculture, which targets to produce about two million tonnes of maize this season.