Fungi Kwaramba and Rumbidzayi Zinyuke, Harare Bureau
THE Second Phase of the Zimbabwe-Belarus Farm Mechanisation Programme was launched in Harare yesterday with President Mnangagwa saying increased co-operation between the two countries can help modernise and industrialise the nation.
Zimbabwe and Belarus also signed eight bilateral agreements in the areas of education, agriculture and economic co-operation at a ceremony that was presided over by President Mnangagwa and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko at State House.
Immediately after the signing of the agreements, the two leaders proceeded to launch the Second Phase of the Farm Mechanisation Programme at the Ministry of Agriculture Institute, where Zimbabwe took delivery of an additional 1 300 tractors, 14 combine harvesters and disc harrows.
The first phase saw 474 tractors, 60 combine harvesters, 210 planters and 5 lowbed trucks being delivered to the country and distributed to farmers through the Land Bank and CBZ.
President Mnangagwa said co-operation between Zimbabwe and Belarus was mutually beneficial and was yielding good results for the people of the two countries.
“We do not co-operate by talking on international platforms but we co-operate through physical assistance to each other. The Zimbabwean economy is basically agricultural. Under the Second Republic, we took a resolve that we must be food secure. There are two possibilities; you achieve that on your own without support from anyone. The second possibility is you have a vision and you have a friend who shares that vision. When I visited Belarus in 2015 and 2019, I saw how mechanised the Belarus agriculture sector is and I said this is the vision I also have for Zimbabwe. We would want as a nation, as a people, to be food secure,” he said.
The President said due to climate change, there was a need to develop mitigating measures in agriculture to ensure food security, even during droughts.
“We have the land in Zimbabwe and we have rivers. I am informed by the Ministry of Agriculture that Zimbabwe has 10 000 inland water bodies. That is more than the dams that exist in SADC. So we have decided to mechanise and modernise our agriculture and this we have achieved within three years. What follows now is to increase the yield levels per hectare. I hope in another three to five years, the level of agriculture mechanisation in Zimbabwe will be as good as what I have seen in Belarus,” he added.
Already, more equipment that will help in the modernisation and mechanisation of the country’s agriculture sector is on the high seas from Belarus.
Earlier, President Mnangagwa had said bilateral co-operation between Zimbabwe and Belarus can help modernise and industrialise Zimbabwe.
“We are extremely happy and I feel honoured that you accepted an invitation to pay a visit to Zimbabwe. In fact, my dear brother would have come last year but as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic constraints, we had to postpone the visit twice. This year we felt the pandemic had somewhat receded and my dear brother was able to pay a reciprocal visit to Zimbabwe. I am happy that this demonstrates the warm relations which exist between Harare and Minsk and this visit strengthens, deepens and consolidates our bilateral relations. As a result of this, we have agreed to open embassies in each other’s capitals,” said the President.
Asked by Belarusian journalists about his impressions of the eastern European country, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe has much to learn from Belarus especially in the sectors of agriculture and technology.
“I first visited Belarus when I was sent there by my former boss, the late President Mugabe in 2015 and later on in 2019. The agriculture sector is highly mechanised in Belarus, it is a small country with a population of just about 9 million but they produce enough grain for themselves and for export. This is why when I came back I made recommendations to my President to develop co-operation with Belarus in the area of agriculture in order to mechanise and modernise our agriculture and I am happy that as a result of that focus, we are now food secure, we are now on the road to achieve mechanisation in Zimbabwe and say goodbye to food insecurity for good,” the President said.
Because of that co-operation, Zimbabwe has been able secure its mineral resources, while in the huge timber markets agreements signed yesterday, the country will also see increased output.
“We have just seen here a Memorandum of Understanding signed by our Allied Timbers, they got equipment from Belarus in the forest and timber sector, they are very happy. We have Hwange, Hwange was on its knees, they also received equipment from Belarus and they are up and running now. I visited some of the factories, engineering factories in Minsk. For the first time I saw a truck which carries 250 tonnes, one truck; now I am told it has gone beyond that, its 450 tonnes in one truck, but the time I went there it was 250 tonnes in one truck. There is nowhere you can find such trucks, not even from where you went to Universities, so again in terms of science and technology, Belarus is quite respected in the Eastern European countries and there is co-operation between us,” President Mnangagwa said.
The eight agreements signed yesterday include the establishment of a Joint Permanent Commission and a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Mutual Recognition of Educational Qualifications.
Other agreements signed include the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments, an Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and Property.
A Twinning Agreement between Harare and Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, was also signed along with a contract between the Government of Zimbabwe, represented by the Minister Lands, Agriculture Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka, on co-operation in the supply of tractors and grain harvesting equipment.
Dr Masuka also represented Zimbabwe during the signing of an agreement for the supply of equipment manufactured in Belarus for the construction and modernisation of grain storage facilities in the country.
Another MoU on co-operation in the framework of supplies of machines and equipment produced in Belarus for the country’s growing timber industry was also signed between Allied Timbers and Belarusian company Aftrade DMCC.