The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development is set to launch ward information centres tomorrow in Insiza and Matobo as part of a project that will reach over 100 000 farmers in four districts in the country.
The centres are ICT based platforms, part of 24 centres that have been established under the European Union (EU)-funded Zimbabwe Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems (ZAKIS) project designed to meet the extension and information needs of farmers.
The project is aimed at improving Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector by enhancing the dissemination of agricultural knowledge, stimulating innovation, and harmonising the delivery of agricultural research, education, and extension services.
The solar-powered centres are basically resource centres equipped with free Wi-Fi, tablets, and smart TV screens where farmers can access ICT-based extension services, training, and information in the form of digital publications, agriculture applications, podcasts, and video tutorials.
In an interview recently, Agritex acting deputy director of training, Mrs Nester Gumbo said the centres will also act as training platforms for farmers.
“As Government, we appreciate the work that ZAKIS is doing to ensure that information reaches farmers timeously. The centres will allow farming communities to access the correct information on good agricultural practices and value chains in user-friendly formats.
“They will also act as training platforms for farmers, and this will allow faster adoption of new yield-enhancing technologies,” she said.
Mrs Gumbo said the ward information centres will also allow farmers to access information on input and produce markets.
Commenting on the upcoming launch, ZAKIS head of project Mr Waddilove Sansole said farming communities in Zimbabwe require robust information delivery systems that can improve productivity, incomes and sustainability in line with the Zimbabwe Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy.
He said the ward information centres will reach over 100 000 farmers in the four districts.
“They also support Government’s ICT for Agriculture (ICT4Agri) strategy and are expected to transform the sharing of agricultural knowledge and the delivery of innovation in the sector,” he said.
“The centres will build the capacity for farmers to participate in e-extension in line with government’s digital for agriculture strategy and they will drive the agenda for a demand-driven, market-oriented and participatory extension service. This will make extension more effective and efficient.”
The programme to bring information to farmers is being implemented by a consortium of local and international agricultural specialist NGOs, comprising Welthungerhilfe (WHH), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Community Technology Development Organisation (CTDO), and Sustainable Agriculture Technology (SAT).
ZAKIS is part of the €40 million, EU-funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP), which is a response to the challenges within the country’s agriculture sector.
The programme seeks to contribute to the development of a diversified and efficient agriculture sector that promotes inclusive green economic growth.
Its focus is on increasing profitability, building the capacity of farmers, service institutions, and the private sector through increased investment, institutional reforms, and policy alignment.