Government has launched the Zimbabwe Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion project (ZIM-SHEP) which is expected to boost production and improve livelihoods of people in farming communities.
It will contribute towards the realisation of the national vision of a middle income economy by 2030.
The project, which is being sponsored by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will be implemented in eight provinces and will run for five years.
ZIM-SHEP is also expected to promote market access and participation by small-scale farmers, help farmers develop technical and managerial capacity to practice market-oriented horticultural farming.
In a speech read on his behalf by Deputy Minister Douglas Karoro, Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said market access by small-scale farmers was an important poverty reduction measure which would contribute towards achieving national development priorities.
“This project has come at the appropriate time as Government endeavours on a decisive path to steer horticulture growth for both import substitution and enhancing exports,” he said.
“By targeting the smallholder farming sector which dominate horticulture production in Zimbabwe, ZIM-SHEP project speaks to the needs of the Zimbabwean farming community.
“I am aware that smallholder farmers are facing challenges which include low income emanating from weak capacity of farmers’ groups; lack of skills for production and quality control, limited market access, unstable prices and underdeveloped market and market-related infrastructure in rural areas.
“Improvement of market access and promotion of market participation by small-scale farmers is an important poverty reduction measure. Thus the coming in of ZIM-SHEP project will go a long way in achieving national develop priorities.”
Minister Shiri said assistance from the Japanese government also supported continental initiatives such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) pillar II which seeks to improve agricultural market access to enhance agricultural incomes.
“I am confident that ZIM-SHEP project will go a long way in meeting the set goals of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) of making Zimbabwe a middle income economy by 2030 as enunciated by His Excellency President Mnangagwa,” he said.
Minister Shiri said the project had yielded positive results, with noticeable improvements in farmers’ livelihoods and managerial skills.
Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Toshiyuki Iwado said the potential of agriculture in Zimbabwe was one of the most vital measures for the country to achieve the goal of becoming a middle income country by 2030.
“We have supported 15 agricultural projects around the country, including the project for construction of an agricultural training centre in Shurugwi in 2015 and the project for the improvement of farming skills in Gweru in 2012,” he said.
“I have special interest in SHEP because it involves assisting farmers with producing horticultural products and also connects them with the entire value chain so that they grow to sell.”
SHEP in Africa originated in Kenya and is now being implemented in 23 countries in Africa.
Zimbabwe started implementing the SHEP in Mashonaland East in 2014 and has spread to Mashonaland Central and Midlands.
JICA has assisted Zimbabwe in various developmental projects, with experts being attached to Agritex and Irrigation departments, with irrigation development at Nyamakomba in Manicaland at an advanced stage.
JICA has also assisted through undertaking feasibility studies on dams and irrigation schemes at Kudu, Munyati and Munjanganja; donating computers, software and GPS devices to assist in developing an inventory of smallholder irrigation schemes in Zimbabwe, formulation of irrigation policy and offered training to 400 agricultural officers.