Arda restrategises to guarantee food security

Source: Arda restrategises to guarantee food security | Sunday Mail (Business)

Golden Sibanda

THE Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) says it is repositioning itself as a vehicle for food, feed, fibre and biofuels security in Zimbabwe in line with its new mandate.

Chief executive officer Mr Tinotenda Mhiko said after years of low production at its estates, ARDA was emerging from its slumber.

“The first step that we did was to restructure,” he said.

The State-owned enterprise falls under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement and is responsible for advancing agricultural production and rural development.

Its current portfolio includes 21 estates with a total of 98 000 hectares of arable land, of which 19,4 percent is irrigable.

Part of the new strategy, which is premised on helping the country become an upper middle-income economy by 2030, involves full utilisation of vast tracts of land both at its estates and irrigation schemes across the country.

The model includes a market-led crop production programme, where all crops have a guaranteed market.

President Mnangagwa was expected to have launched the ARDA Vision 2030 accelerator model programme at Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme yesterday to stimulate rural industrialisation through agricultural development.

Overall, the programmes are spelt out in the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy (AFSTS), which seeks to achieve a US$8,2 billion agriculture sector by 2025.

“Pursuant to our refocused mandate, our trajectory is anchored on the following two broad pillars, namely: rural development and industrialisation, and agriculture and agro-industry development,” added Mr Mhiko.

ARDA’s objective is also to ensure self-sustenance across its operations.

Various crop and livestock production initiatives are already underway to ensure the entity contributes at least 500 000 tonnes of various grains to the national reserve by 2023.

“We have various crops under production that include maize, wheat, sorghum, soyabean, cotton, sunflower, sugarcane and tea.

“We also do horticultural crops and fruit trees, namely avocadoes, pecan and macadamia nuts,” he said.

A commercial services unit has been set up to provide a one-stop shop for products and services across the whole agricultural production value chain.

But the authority also need funds to clear land and support irrigation development to ensure the land is fully utilised.

Fresh capital injection, Mr Mhiko added, would support ARDA’s rural industrialisation, production ramp-up and agro-industry development.

However, negotiations with local financial institutions are advanced.

Resources are also need for weather-proofing systems and deployment of smart agronomical technologies and irrigation development to reduce reliance on rain-fed agriculture.

“There is also a need for retooling at our estates, and for your information, we have set up a commercial services unit to provide a whole array of services and products for our clients and stakeholders, and obviously capacity building is essential.”

Some ARDA estates are currently under various forms of partnerships.

But, going forward, it will now be focusing on running all its new estates.

“We have already set our wheels in motion to achieve this target at our estates and irrigation schemes that we manage.

“We are also working on a decentralised industrialisation drive that will see us value adding our produce at estates in a bid to promote lean value chains and reduce costs, increasing efficiencies and eliminating waste,” he said.

ARDA is mandated to ensure that the entire 88 000 hectares of potential arable land out of 142 000 hectares under its wing are fully utilised within the next three years instead of the current 13 000 hectares.