Tendai Mugabe Harare Bureau
About 300,000 small-scale farmers across the country are set to benefit from the $28 million Presidential Well Wishers Input Scheme for the 2015/16 farming season which starts in the next few weeks.
The inputs are expected to increase yields and improve food security for the elderly and orphans, who are some of the beneficiaries.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for crops Cde Davis Marapira told our Harare Bureau yesterday that government had set aside $28 million for the inputs scheme.
He said distribution of the inputs would start before the end of next month.
“The scheme is targeting to benefit 300,000 small scale farmers and will benefit almost everyone who is in need. We’re however saying those who have potential should buy their own inputs,” said Cde Marapira.
“We’re expecting distribution of the inputs to start by the end of October to early November.”
Cde Marapira said he was hopeful that all deserving people would access the inputs on time.
The inputs rescue package comes at an opportune time as preparations for the summer cropping season have begun.
Farmers applauded the government’s consistency in assisting vulnerable groups during the past farming seasons.
They appealed for a reduction of prices of inputs which they said were beyond the reach of many.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Wonder Chabikwa said: “It’s important for the government to help the vulnerable within our midst.”
“All able-bodied farmers should buy their own inputs.
“The spirit of buying is good because it also enhances the commitment that the farmers attach to their farming activities,” said Chabikwa.
“However, we also appeal to the government to subsidise these inputs because prices are beyond the reach of many farmers. Our produce is now for the international market and the prices of our inputs should be reflective of that,” he said.
Fertiliser companies have promised to slash prices by 20 percent.
Chabikwa said they were also hopeful that money for maize delivered to the Grain Marketing Board during the 2014/15 farming season would be released early as promised by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made.
He said the money would go a long way in assisting farmers in their operations.
Preparations for the 2015/16 have already started although on a slow pace due to a number of challenges.
Most farmers are finding the going tough due to challenges caused by illegal sanctions imposed by the West, which have taken a toll on their operations.
Although the government has waived duty on fertiliser imports, farmers are still unable to buy the inputs as they are yet to be paid by GMB for grain delivered last season.
Weather forecasts released last week showed that the country was likely to receive normal to below normal rainfall for the 2015/16 season, with farmers being advised to plant small grains, short-season varieties and stagger planting to spread the risk.
To avoid potentially devastating food insecurity, the Meteorological Services Department implored government to prioritise cloud seeding and also urged farmers with irrigation facilities to concentrate on cultivating crops under irrigation as opposed to dry land farming.