Lungile Tshuma, Sunday News Correspondent
THE United Nations has availed a $300 million fund for Command Agriculture in the next four years, a development which will help Government efforts to expand the programme and build on the success of this season.
Zimbabwe is basking in the glory of a bumper harvest this year following a successful agriculture season which was boosted by good rains and support from Government through Command Agriculture and the Presidential Input Scheme.
In an interview, UN in Zimbabwe communication specialist Mr Sirak Gebrehiwot said the international agency was working with Government to ensure its policy of ensuring food security and nutrition and Command Agriculture continues to bear fruits through community capacity building. He said Command Agriculture can be more successful when communities are empowered while investment at national level, that is, supporting irrigation schemes is going on.
Said Mr Gebrehiwot: “Under our assistance framework we have a result area where we are providing assistance to the Government in the food security and nutrition area with a tune of $300 million over a period of four years and this in terms of providing, this includes community asset building and technical support.”
He said the scheme was in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the country is a a signatory of.
“The United Nations has already identified that Zimbabwe is a country with both the potential and capacity to be the bread basket of Africa. Food security and nutrition is one area which Zimbabwe can easily achieve given the right policy and Command Agriculture is one policy which the Government is bringing in to address food security issues,” he said.
He said besides the money, UN together with its developmental partners has also mobilised funds to empower communities instead of the hand to mouth handouts which have proved to be detrimental.
“Together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, we have pooled funds to counter climate change on helping communities to be resilient and use adaptation and mitigation measures. The fund looks after consortiums where communities come together, propose an idea related to food security which includes building water harvesting and management facilities,” said Mr Gebrehiwot.
Under the scheme, he said, communities submit their proposals and after making the grade they are given the fund.
The facility started last year and so far 85 000 people have benefited from the programme which he said has a direct bearing on food security and nutrition.
He said support of their developmental partners like World Food Programme (WFP) have shifted from giving food to community to engaging in community asset building where communities come with ideas on how to improve food security and this might include horticulture, and livestock keeping. Over 140 000 people are already involved in this project, he said.
Mr Gebrehiwot added that the country has set a good framework for the attainment of SGDs with sound policies like Command Agriculture going to be the panacea in ensuring that food security and nutrition is achieved.
He said: “All in all we can simply say we are directly and indirectly supporting Government in ensuring that food security and nutrition is attained in the country. Within the Government commitment to Command Agriculture and food security issues, we are simply on the same page on those matters.”
Zimbabwe is expecting to harvest 2,7 million of cereals of which 2,1 million tonnes are expected to come from maize while the remaining 500 000 tonnes will come from small grains. When it was introduced, the Command Agriculture scheme targeted farmers near water bodies who could put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize per individual. Each farmer was required to produce at least 1 000 tonnes of maize and required to commit five tonnes per hectare towards repayment of advanced loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs and chemicals, mechanised equipment, electricity and water charges.
Farmers were to retain the surplus.