Irrigation development key to Command Agriculture success

VP Mnangagwa

VP Mnangagwa

Takunda Maodza Assistant News Editor
FACTS are stubborn. That Command Agriculture is a success is fact even before we start counting our harvest. A few doubting Thomases have vociferously downplayed the programme unnecessarily.

But it remains a fact that a bumper harvest is upon us, attributable to the success of Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support scheme.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose office was tasked by President Mugabe to ensure the success of Command Agriculture, was at a loss for words a fortnight ago in Switzerland, when he briefed the Zimbabwe embassy staff in Geneva on the programme.

“We are happy that our people responded beyond belief countrywide. After seeing that the programme is a success, we are thinking of going beyond maize,” he said.

VP Mnangagwa said the thinking within Government was to spread the Command Agriculture net to such crops as cotton, soya beans and wheat. He suggested taking the command management system to other sectors of the economy. Indeed, it cannot be business as usual!

There is, however, an important ingredient to the success of Command Agriculture that deserves salience.

It is an indisputable fact that the bumper harvest we expect is partly due to the good rains we received this farming season.

I am not diminishing the efforts made by the Command Agriculture team towards realisation of a bumper harvest. No. They toiled. The point is rather that we do not know how the weather will be like next farming season. God might smile at us again come the 2017-2018 season.

He might not. Government intervention is confined to creating a conducive environment for farmers to produce through such programmes as Command Agriculture. Zanu-PF is not a union of rainmakers. That is the preserve of the Most High.

What comes to mind is — how sustainable is a rain-fed Command Agriculture? Put simply, what is the fate of Command Agriculture, for example, if the 2017-2018 farming season turns out less than favourable?

Would that spell doom for Command Agriculture and any such efforts by Government at beating hunger? Climate change is an unruly monster. It is a dictatorship that rules without moderation.

It blessed us with rains this farming season; tomorrow it might be stingy and callous. What safeguards has Government put in place to ensure Command Agriculture does not perish even in a drought year?

Today we are basking in the sun celebrating in the success of Command Agriculture but what guarantee is there that the bubble will not burst the moment rains fail?

An idea like Command Agriculture must certainly stand the test of time by rising above the vagaries and calamities of poor rains. History must have taught us by now that it is naïve or rather dangerous to rely on rain-fed agriculture to a feed a nation no matter the depth and height of our prayers.

While the joy that comes with the success of Command Agriculture is an entitlement for all citizens, it is also a moment of planning ahead.

Government must urgently mobilise resources and invest in irrigation. It has talked about the need for revamping irrigation for some time.

It is time we walk the talk. The country has enough dams to ensure the success of Command Agriculture even in the event of a drought. In fact, news from Masvingo is that the newly built Tokwe-Mukosi dam — situated a few kilometres from where my umbilical cord is buried in Nyajena Communal Lands — has 1.204 billion cubic metres of water or is 67 percent full. It has a capacity for 1,8 billion cubic metres when full.

Closure to the capital, another piece of positive news is that Mazowe Dam is reportedly spilling for the first time in almost two decades.

With such positive news, there is need to revamp the country’s irrigation schemes if we dream of yet another Command Agriculture success story.

Critics of the programme will certainly laugh their lungs out if Command Agriculture fails next farming season owing to poor rains. They will immediately attribute this season’s bumper harvest to good rains and nothing else.

We have a Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development under the stewardship of Dr Joseph Made. Time has come that mobilisation of resources for irrigation development follow the command route.

It cannot be Dr Made’s baby alone as issues of the stomach affect everyone. In fact, in as much as food is a human right, lack of it is a national security threat.

A hungry people think with their stomachs. Since irrigation is such a critical factor to the success of an economy based on agriculture like ours, it is prudent to start thinking of having a ministry dedicated to irrigation development. In countries such as the United Arab Emirates they have a Minister of Happiness by the name Ohood Al Roumi. His duty is to ensure that citizens are happy!

To do that here, a nation needs full stomachs, hence our focus on irrigation. In the short term, we may need public-private sector partnership in the area of irrigation development using the same modus operandi as in Command Agriculture.

The fact that all the millions used in Command Agriculture were sourced locally points to the capacity Zimbabwe has internally — without the burden of taking a begging bowl to foreign capitals — to boost agriculture production.

For those in the dark, local companies funded the Command Agriculture project. Since Government does not have money, it is worthwhile to urgently consider engaging stakeholders with interest in irrigation development.

The format does not change — the system is command management. Command management entails identifying a problem as a nation, putting up a team answerable to one centre of power, setting up a target, roping in like-minded stakeholders and executing chores fearlessly.

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