President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday opened up on his other passion — farming — saying he is hands-on and visits his farm at the slightest of opportunities from his busy schedule.
Speaking on the sidelines of a familiarisation tour of his Pricabe Farm in Sherwood, Kwekwe, by a delegation led by Rwanda Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr James Musoni, President Mnangagwa showed a rare grasp of operations at his farm, proving he is indeed hands-on.
The familiarisation tour was part of the two countries’ exchange programmes lined up in an earlier meeting between President Mnangagwa and his Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The President is also into fish farming and market gardening and is currently preparing for winter wheat production.
His farming ingenuity is evident in how he mooted Command Agriculture, a specialised import substitution programme that has changed Zimbabwe from grain imports to self-sustainance. Command Agriculture, under the leadership of President Mnangagwa, then Vice President, in 2016, initially covered maize but has since been expanded to other sub-sectors, where its success story is the talk of the country and beyond.
In its first year of operation the programme, which was aimed at producing 2,2 million tonnes of maize — enough to meet the country’s 1,8 million tonne demand — surpassed all expected after more than 4 million tonnes of maize was produced, a feat that had not been achieved for years.
The bumper harvest in 2017 saw the country running out of storage space forcing the GMB to open satellite depots to create space for grain.
And President Mnangagwa showed how he gets his hands soiled — for the figurative cause.
“Every Saturday and Sunday I come to the farm when I am available. I also have two brothers who are always at the farm. I am not a cellphone farmer.
“My brothers move around researching on the latest technology and how it can be used at the farm. As a result I am expecting between 12 and 14 tonnes per hectare in terms of maize.
“We do, however, use cellphones in our production purposes. I have a pumping station that serves nine pivots collecting water from a distance of 7 kilometres and that is when I use a cellphone to operate the latest technology,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said the farm was now targeting establishing an agribusiness to process some of the produce of the farm.
A farmer par excellence, President Mnangagwa has transformed Pricabe Farm into a production hub of crops ranging from soyabeans to maize, now ready to be harvested.
He urged other farmers in the country to be hands-on and to use technology to maximise their production.
“It is all about technology, moving around seeing technology and how to apply it because what is necessary is that each hectare must produce more.
“Our land cannot expand anymore. We have to make use of technology to utilise what we have to ensure that we realise more from it. When you have modern technology, you can maximise in terms of production and that way agriculture becomes profitable,” he said.
Ambassador Musoni applauded President Mnangagwa for leading by example and being hands-on.
“We appreciate His Excellency for allowing us time to visit his farm. The technology we have seen here is a challenge to us as a country. President Mnangagwa is a hands-on leader who shows how it is done and that is true leadership,” said Ambassador Musoni.
He said there were a lot of exchange programmes lined up between the two countries.
“We are looking forward to exchanging ideas between our two countries. There is a lot that we can learn from each other. I am impressed that President Mnangagwa is in the process of reforming a one-stop centre for ease of doing business, the same model that made our economy grow.”
Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and the ties between Kigali and Harare are expected to strengthen with a number of exchange programmes lined up.
Small to Medium Enterprises Minister Sithembiso Nyoni, Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister Larry Mavima, Zanu-PF Midlands chairperson Daniel Mackenzie Ncube were among of the top Government and party officials who attended the function.