Elita Chikwati, Harare Bureau
Command Agriculture, which is the brainchild of the Government, has rescued thousands of farmers who could have failed to productively use their land this season owing to funding challenges.
There was hesitancy among some banks to extend loans to farmers and those that did made borrowing expensive and demanded collateral security in the form of immovable property, prompting the Government to intervene with the Command Agriculture programme that has now turned the vast tracts of land into greenbelts of crops.
Farmers who received crop inputs under Command Agriculture are confident of surpassing the targeted yield of five tonnes per hectare, given that the rains have not been disappointing so far.
Visits by our Harare Bureau to beneficiaries of the programme recently showed that most of the maize crop was in good condition with most farmers expecting above five tonnes per hectare.
Beneficiaries of the programme commended the Government for coming to their rescue at a time they needed assistance the most, especially with the Meteorological Services Department predicting normal to above normal rainfall in most parts of the country.
For the past years farmers have been calling for support to boost production with local financial institutions unwilling to help.
Mazowe farmer Mrs Tsitsi Gezi of Kwayedza Farm, said most farmers did not have enough money to finance their businesses after coming from two consecutive bad seasons characterised by droughts.
She said most farmers were affected by the El Nino induced drought and could not pay back loans and banks were not willing to continue funding them.
“Most farmers did not have money to fund themselves. Command farming came to our rescue as Government provided seed, fertilisers and tillage for farmers,” she said.
Mr Jacob Mungate of Sachel Farm in Glendale said with command agriculture failure was not an option and that it was all systems go.
“We know opponents of land reform want to see us fail so that they portray us as failures. We say to them you cannot win with our Government. It knows when and where to intervene and today, I am very happy that I have a thriving and flourishing maize crop, something I would not have achieved without command agriculture,’’ said Mr Mungate.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa, only had good words for the Government.
He said in the absence of Command Agriculture most farmers would have failed to produce maize, leading to serious shortage of food. “I cannot over emphasise the impact of Command Agriculture in boosting maize production. Command Agriculture has greatly empowered farmers and increased capacity utilisation of land.
“Command Agriculture happened according to prescription. Last season President Mugabe declared a state of disaster because of the severe drought. Coming out of such a scenario, many people will not be able to fund their operations. Command farming came in time to save the drought stricken farmers,” he said.
Mr Chabikwa said the rains the country was receiving were good for agriculture but could have been wasted had farmers not received adequate funding.
“The programme is a noble one. We wish those farmers who could not access compound D could be given ammonium nitrate early to save the crop. We are confident most farmers will surpass five tonnes per hectare. Five tonnes per hectare is achievable this season, ‘’ he said.
Another Mazowe farmer, Mr Osborne Chimwayi, said Command Agriculture was important as it was geared towards boosting national food security.
“It is so demeaning for a country such as Zimbabwe to import food when we have the land and hardworking farmers. Command farming is the way to go. We will soon be exporting food to other countries and retain our status as the bread basket of Africa,” he said.
Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Command Agriculture came after the country recorded food deficit.
The programme is meant to produce two million tonnes of maize under 400 000 hectares of land.
Zimbabwe requires 1,5 million tonnes of maize for both human and livestock consumption.
The country should at any given time have at least 500 000 tonnes of maize in the strategic grain reserve.
He said Command Agriculture was expanding to wheat and soyabeans this forthcoming farming season.
“In four seasons the country should be self sufficient. Industry should be running and we should not talk of hunger anymore,” he said.