via ‘Commercialisation of small farms key to food security’ – Southern Eye 24 May 2015 by Phyllis Mbanje
LUPANE — Commercialisation of smallholder agriculture is key in improving food security and reducing poverty, the government and development partners have said.
Speaking at United States Agency for International Development’s (USAid) Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim Aide) project closeout in Lupane, United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton said helping small holder farmers commercialise their activities would increase incomes and stamp out poverty.
“Collectively the private sector and government departments are working hard to assure continued sustainability of the gains that have been by the farmers,” he said
The farmers besides their immense contribution to the agricultural sector have not received as much support in terms of inputs and training on pertinent issues like market surveys and increasing their yields.
However, partners like the USAid have initiated projects like the Tshongokwe Irrigation scheme which has transformed the lives of the farmers who can now realise greater, quality yields and also compete at the market with other farmers.
“The US government has provided resources to promote good agricultural practices, farming as a business, expanded access to finance through institutions like Quest,” Wharton said.
The Tshongokwe project has been running since 2010 and local farmers have actively participated in the project, producing quality produce like butternuts, cabbages and rearing livestock.
Although the Zim-Aide programme is ending, the US government has vowed to continue supporting the country and will launch two more agricultural development programmes.
Delayed and erratic rain has seen most of the crop being destroyed and farmers especially Matabeleland North are facing imminent drought.
Speaking at the event, of Agriculture deputy minister Davis Mharapara urged farmers to pay off their loans to ensure that they received more financing.
“The farmers should fulfil their obligations and repay their loans so that there is continuity and activities are sustained,” he said.
Mharapara also said smallholder farmers were often faced with lower yields not because of lack of vast fields for larger production, but because they have less access to technical knowledge, markets, credit, and inputs such as improved seeds, fertilizers and equipment.
“Addressing these disparities is central to moving towards food security, improved nutrition, increased rural incomes, and greater economic growth for Zimbabwe,” he said.
Head of lending services at Quest Donald Saruro said they felt privileged to be able to assist farmers in boosting the agricultural sector.
“We have worked well with the farmers in Tshongokwe and to date their repayment is 100%. Our services do not require collateral and we base our decisions on through vetting of the groups that we work with,” he said.