Blessings Chidakwa-Herald Reporter
AT least 2.7 million communal households will benefit from 35,000 two-wheel tractors replacing the traditional hoe and plow system in a transformative move by Government set to change lives and livelihoods across the country.
Further, 5,000 field schools, and 4,000 livestock and veterinary schools meant for agricultural development have been established countrywide as the country implements wholesale changes designed to steer the agricultural sector towards becoming a US$8.2 billion industry by 2025.
The array of measures, announced by Minister of Lands Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Anxious Masuka in Harare yesterday, will also see 400,000 peri-urban farmers benefitting from the Presidential Input Scheme as part of development that leaves no one and no place behind that is championed by President Mnangagwa.
The measures also dovetail with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) which places particular emphasis on agricultural mechanisation and modernization.
The transition to the two-wheel tractors is set to benefit millions across the country and comes in handy, especially as some farmers lost their livestock to diseases.
Apart from targeting small-scale farmers, commercial farmers will also benefit as 3,000 tractors are expected in the country, in measures that are meant to ensure food security, save foreign currency from grain imports, and reposition Zimbabwe as a major agriculture products supplier in the world.
Addressing a Press Conference at his offices yesterday, Dr Masuka said the tractors are coming from Belarus and the John Deere facility fronted by a United States company.
“We have 2.7 million household units in the country who are still using the plow and hoe. A recent survey by Zimvac (Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee) has shown that half of the households do not own cattle and they struggle with tillage, hopefully Pfumvudza/Intwasa can assist. However, mechanisation of Pfumvudza/Intwasa itself is a must, and we are importing 600 units of two-wheel tractors that we will give to service providers in villages. We already have 68 that have arrived in the country.
“In this space, we require at least 35,000 units of two-wheel tractors to be able to mechanize the communal areas so that we can get that productivity up,” he said.
Dr Masuka said some components of the tractors will be made locally while the importation of other tractors for resettled and large-scale farmers is underway.
“In the past, we used to import parts as disc harrows, we need to localize the production of these attachments. We are accelerating the mechanisation agenda,” he said.
For large-scale farmers, Government is going to bring in more 3,000 tractors by August this year.
“We have already brought over 1,000 tractors under the Belarus and John Deere facilities. I expect 1,337 tractors to arrive in the next two months. Over 80 of these tractors are already in the country and will be distributed via financial institutions.”
Dr Masuka said the Government has moved from Command Agriculture to the National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme where, instead of giving direct inputs to farmers, they will now create discipline among farmers so that for sustainability purposes, they go through financial institutions.
He said financial aid will be through Government-backed schemes in banks such as CBZ and AFC, with farmers accessing the equipment which they pay for over a three-year period and with a 15 percent deposit deduction being done at a point of sale with the Grain Marketing Board.
“From this year onwards, 400,000 peri-urban farmers will also benefit from the Presidential Inputs Scheme which is a productive social scheme where they do not pay.
“This contract between the President and households will produce sufficient food to feed farmers and their families with the surplus channeled to the GMB,” he said.
Dr Masuka said on the established 5,000 farmer field schools, the program is targeting crop production with each Agritex officer set to lead in practice.
“In the past, we had Agritex officers as extensions and trainers, now we have changed our whole extension system from agricultural extension 2.0 for extension and training to agricultural education for development to include entrepreneurship, innovation, research, and development.
“The agritex worker will lead in a farmer field school and will teach best management practices before farmers go out and do likewise,” he said.
Dr Masuka said for livestock they will have 4,000 veterinary and livestock development field schools.
“There will be one (school) at each dip tank. We no longer have these places being solely for disease control but also a place where best practices are taught including the application of tick grease and manufacture of household feeds,” he said.