GOVERNMENT has adopted a new conservation agriculture model called, Pfumvudza/Intwasa, that seeks to increase household food security across provinces through commercialising small holder farming.
Developing robust agriculture value chains and channelling adequate support to specialised farming segments are at the heart of the model, which is expected to assist the country to trim the food import bill.
The model involves holing out and mulching on farms to boost output in light of the continued reduction in crop production. Like most countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region and beyond, Zimbabwe has not been spared from the adverse effects of climate change that have caused output in the agriculture sector to decline.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Perence Shiri, said conservation agriculture modelling was being introduced against a background of continued decline in maize, wheat and soya bean output, which is a threat to national food security. As a result of declining agricultural output, Zimbabwe is spending millions on food imports.
“This is against a backdrop of foreign currency shortages and increased global commodity prices. The recovery plan seeks to reverse the negative production trends, attain self-sufficiency and allow the country to move away from perpetual importation of these strategic commodities,” said Minister Shiri in a statement.
“Achieving this enables the agriculture sector to occupy its rightful position in steering the country towards attainment of Vision 2030.”
Official data shows that drought conditions saw the country’s harvest fall by about 53 percent year-on-year in 2018/19 production season to 800 000 tonnes when compared to 1,8 million tonnes of maize required per year. In the 2020 national budget statement, Treasury indicated that at least 3,7 million were in need of humanitarian food assistance between July 2019 to April 2020. This year’s rainy season has also not been favourable with southern parts of the country, mainly Matabeleland provinces, counting losses of crop failure due to erratic rains. Outside maize, Zimbabwe on average spends US$100 million importing wheat, US$200 million on crude soya oil and about US$100 million on fertiliser products. On average cereals alone gobble about US$500 million.
As such, Minister Shiri said the recovery plan was premised on key elements that include Climate Proofed-Presidential Input Support Scheme, financial services sector-led commercial contract farming and the commodity value chain financing model. The Climate Proofed-Presidential Input Support Scheme aims to support 1,6 million vulnerable households to produce maize with standardised input package of 5 kilogramme seed, 50kg basal and 50kg top dressing fertiliser. Minister Shiri said 32kg of basal and top dressing fertiliser can establish two standardised 0,06 hactare-plot each and the two plots can produce over 1 600kg up to 3 200kg of maize grain, enough to feed an average household of five people, leaving surplus. The other plot, he said, would produce surplus for sale and the model intends to address household food security as well as commercialisation of smallholder farming in Zimbabwe.
“The farming method adopted on the plots will be the conservation agriculture (Pfumvudza/Intwasa concept, which involves holing out and mulching) and will be standardised throughout the country,” said the minister.
“This requires a well capacitated extension system with potential to transform the smallholder sector to produce the country’s food requirements.
“This will allow the large farmers to focus on export crops production while 8 500 rural schools will be used as centres of excellence and community centres used to disseminate information on the Pfumvudza concept,” he said.
However, Minister Shiri said the programme requires a robust and a well-capacitated extension provision system for technical backstopping, tracking and monitoring. In this light, it is hoped that each extension worker will be required to establish at least a one demonstration plot and given targets to train, track and monitor the adoption of conservation agriculture on 350 households. The demonstration plots will also be established at schools for teaching students as well as used as centres of excellence.
“For a farmer to become a beneficiary, all the necessary preparatory activities such as holing out, mulching harvesting by August, should form the criteria.
“Each household is expected to deliver at least 100kg of maize grain as contribution to the Strategic Grain Reserve. The 100kg contribution should unlock package for the next season,” he said.