SENIOR STAFF WRITER
MORE than 12 000 farmers in Mhondoro-Ngezi and Chegutu districts will benefit from the Agricultural Centres of Excellence (ACE) established at Chibero Agricultural College, Mhondoro and Chegutu by the European Union-funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Services (ZAKIS) project.
ZAKIS recently completed the refurbishing and upgrading of learning facilities and production infrastructure at the centres.
Commenting on the development, ZAKIS head of project Waddilove Sansole said the facilities and infrastructure that were put in place at the centres would provide an enhanced practical learning platform for farmers in the two districts and students at Chibero College.
Through its consortium partner, Sustainable Agriculture Technology (SAT), ZAKIS has completed infrastructure projects at Chibero that include drilling boreholes, installation of solar pumps and drip irrigation as well as refurbishment of fish ponds and livestock facilities.
In addition, five hectare demonstration plots were established at both Chegutu and Chibero.
In an interview during a visit to Chibero recently, acting director of the Department of Agricultural Education and Farmer Training (DAEFT), Jotamu Dondofema said the ZAKIS project fits well into the government’s drive to boost the agriculture sector as it is making positive contributions to the National Development Strategy (NDS1) and Agricultural Recovery Plans.
“The facilities that ZAKIS has renovated will build the capacity of the college to provide students with practical training and will also strengthen the delivery of education, extension and research services to farmers,” said Dondofema.
As part of its drive to foster a market oriented and farmer-centric agriculture sector, SAT has also facilitated partnerships between the ACEs and private sector companies that supply inputs and equipment to agriculture.
These partnerships would allow suppliers to showcase the performance of different crop varieties, fertilisers, equipment and agro-chemicals to students and farmers in the surrounding communities.
Sustainable Agriculture Technology project manager for ZAKIS Talkmore Mukuyu said the centres would take the lead in demonstrating emerging technologies through learning events that include innovation platforms, field days and farmer training workshops.
The ZAKIS project is part of the EU-funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP) whose overall objective is to improve agricultural growth and boost rural green economic development in the country.
It is implemented by a consortium of local and international agricultural specialist NGOs, comprising of Welthungerhilfe, Sustainable Agriculture Technology, ICRISAT and Community Technology Development Organisation.
The centres would become focal points for promoting good agricultural practices, market linkages and adoption of technology. They bring together agricultural education, extension and research services to facilitate the effective dissemination of relevant and up-to-date knowledge and innovation services to farming communities.