Vice President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday said COVID-19 and lockdowns being implemented by most countries across the globe should be used as a wake-up call for governments to focus on home-grown solutions to build their economies.
He said it was inevitable most economies won’t be the same in the post-COVID-19 era and that the time to plan forward was now.
VP Chiwenga made the remarks while launching the 360-hectares Command Winter Wheat project at Zhovhe Farm in Beitbridge West.
He said the Government, through the assistance of its partners, had set a budget of $3,2 billion to capacitate farmers to plant a targeted 80 000ha of wheat, with a targeted yield of 416 000 tonnes, to cut the import bill.
VP Chiwenga said it was not sustainable for the Government to continue importing wheat and grain when production could be maximised with effective use of the land and plenty of water bodies that enhance irrigation-based farming.
“This pandemic and the lockdowns throughout the world should be a wake-up call to all in developing countries to depend more on ourselves,” said VP Chiwenga.
“Just as our clarion call during the struggle to free ourselves from political bondage was that we are our own liberators, so it is with our economic survival in this area where the proponents of globalisation have been proved wrong.
“I, therefore, urge the private sector once again to embrace the national quest for self-sufficiency by providing a market for small grains to encourage their increased production.
“To this end, they may engage more in contract farming and I wish to commend the Nare Family (TopPick Investments) for processing sorghum into mealie-meal, thereby making it more accessible and affordable to local communities”.
VP Chiwenga said the Government had introduced the traditional grains and the winter wheat programmes to enhance its capacity to deal with food and nutrition security nationally.
He encouraged more communal and commercial farmers to register for the two programmes as a way of contributing to the agriculture development initiative.
“The Presidential Inputs Scheme distributed 15 000 tonnes of planting material from the Grain Marketing Board stocks in addition to 2 000 tonnes of certified seed,” said VP Chiwenga.
“I also want to implore on seed houses to produce more certified seed to cover the current deficit on the local market. We also welcome development partners who have embraced our programmes.”
VP Chiwenga said in the last few years, wheat yields had been low, resulting in heavy dependence by the country on imports.
This scenario, VP Chiwenga said, had seen the diversion of the much-needed foreign currency to imports at the expense of other programmes.
He said Government was calling upon those with irrigation infrastructure, water, and free land to take up the winter wheat initiative.
“Registration and contracting for the winter wheat programme is in progress in all provinces and I want to urge the CBZ, which is one of our major implementing partners, to quickly deliver inputs to all the farmers so that we achieve our set target,” he said.
“Power supply is one of the major ingredients to a successful farming season and it is pleasing to note that ZESA has promised us uninterrupted supplies throughout the farming season.”
VP Chiwenga said resources were being mobilised to create a greenbelt between Zhovhe Dam and Beitbridge town (63km), where 10 000 hectares were being opened up for irrigation farming.
Under this model, the Vice President said commercial farmers and the private sector will farm on 7 000 hectares with communal farmers taking up 3 000 hectares.