Walter Nyamukondiwa Chinhoyi Bureau—
The Government-initiated command agriculture programme should be anchored on effective management safeguards while general land tenure on farms should be tied to agreed production targets, a top banker has said. Guest of honour at the Zimbabwe Farmers Union 76th Annual Congress in Chinhoyi and Barclays Bank Zimbabwe managing director Mr George Guvamatanga said land was a limited resource which needs to be fully used.
“I do not have a problem with command agriculture but if it is to be successful it needs to be managed well. With 23 000 farmers reportedly interested to participate. The question is how is such a large number of people going to be managed,” he said.
“We do not want it to be just another programme that is different only in name but with the same traits as the previous ones we have had before where people got inputs for free. It needs to be targeted in the strict sense of the word.”
The immediate past president of the Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe said measures should be put in place to guard against it becoming a “freebies crusade” without delivery. Government has come up with the targeted command agriculture programme where farmers will be supported with inputs to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 ha.
He said giving out offer letters and 99-year leases should not be an end in itself but should be tied to minimum production targets.
“A person should not just get a 99 year lease or a certificate of occupation without agreed targets of production which they must seek to fulfil. We can not have someone having 400ha of land without knowing what they will use it for and setting minimum targets that have to be met,” he said.
“Those who have an opportunity to get land should know that they are more fortunate than those who don’t have land and produce to feed them.” He said farmers cannot continue to be called new farmers 10 years after the agrarian reform and disabuse themselves from over-reliance on government support.
Mr Guvamatanga said the country should replicate the functional value chain support system in the tobacco sector for other crops such as maize, wheat and livestock production. Mr Guvamatanga said effort expended in mobilising resources for grain imports should be channelled towards supporting farmers so that the country does not import.
The sentiments were shared by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development permanent secretary Mr Ringson Chitsiko who said farmers should produce so that the country does not import again.
“The fact that we are having to import left, right and centre to feed our people is a disgrace that needs to be stopped forthwith. This means that farmers should put their shoulder to the plough so that they produce,” he said.
Mr Chitsiko said failure to produce by farmers was a slap in the face for the country’s leadership which needs to be corrected by stepping up production. Mashonaland West Minister of State Cde Faber Chidarikire said farmers unions should come up with localised strategies to implement the 10 Point Plan and the Zim-Asset economic blueprint.
“Without organised agriculture we are doomed to fail as a nation. Farmers unions should come up with localised strategies that aid the implementation of policies enunciated by Government such as the 10 Point Plan and Zim-Asset,” he said.
The ZFU 76th Annual Congress drew farmers from the country’s provinces to share notes on ways to improve agricultural production. It is running under the theme “Innovation for Comprehensive Agrarian Reforms”.