Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
THE Government has secured funding for the incorporation of wheat production under Command Agriculture amid plans to deploy the army to spray pesticides to eradicate the Chilo worm, a senior official said yesterday.
Speaking at a briefing after assessing the maize crop under Command Agriculture at Anju Prison Farm in Umguza District, Matabeleland North, the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Mr Justin Mupamhanga, said the source of the funds was the same as that of maize under Command Agriculture.
Mr Mupamhanga, who was accompanied by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Mr Ringson Chitsiko, a member of the Command Agriculture national subcommittee Major General Sibusiso Moyo and senior government officials, also toured Munroe and Merry Ellen farms, all in Matabeleland North, to assess the maize crop under Command Agriculture.
Responding to a report by the Officer-in-Charge of Anju Prison Farm, Chief Prison Officer Kuzivakwashe Mativenga, Mr Mupamhanga said the government would work with the institution to increase the maize hectarage under the programme.
“But not only to increase hectarage, we are looking at wheat as an option because as we sit here, the financier for the maize crop, Command Agriculture project, has offered to finance wheat production as well. The financing has started coming in and we believe that others will also be coming in,” he said.
“We know for certain that companies that use wheat, the Grain Millers’ Association, the bakers, we are in discussion with them and they have expressed an interest to contract farmers and we believe that Anju will continue to place itself on the table as a potential contractor for wheat with other government or various other contractors possible.”
Mr Mupamhanga hailed Anju Prison farm which he said has become one of the key players in the Command Agriculture programme.
“It’s a bit worrying that you have 130 hectares of arable land and out of that, 40ha is irrigable which means that there is room for expansion as long as boreholes are drilled, so perhaps it will be good for this farm to make a plan to expand its operations in the farming area and I believe there will be sufficient support by both the institution and those running the Command Agriculture programme,” he said.
Mr Mupamhanga said the tour had opened their eyes to the ravages of the Chilo worm which is attacking crops and threatening the success of the Command Agriculture programme.
“It’s devastating, it does not only deal with the vegetative level, it goes even to the cob and it is important that people who are into maize growing know this because until you take your maize off the ground, these worms seem to be following you,” he said.
He however, said the government has set up a critical team including members of the army to deal with the scourge of the Chilo worm.
“We have already raised the challenge of the Chilo worm and fall worm to a national level. It’s no longer for the single farmer or single villager, it’s now a national challenge,” said Mr Mupamhanga.
“We have a structure now in place, we believe it should be effective in the next week or so where members from critical elements like your Agritex, like your members of the Defence Forces in terms of provision of personnel, people from the agricultural colleges, will be deployed to deal with this problem. The structure is already there to deal with this.”
After the tour, Mr Mupamhanga said he and his team were impressed with the work done in the three farms and that all the farmers had indicated interest in winter wheat production.
“What I’ve seen shows that a lot of work has been done in this region.
“Overally we have seen the positive outcome of the policy that the government enunciated, which is Command Agriculture. We believe that this is going to be flowing into the other sectors of the economy, like wheat growing, cotton, soya beans and interestingly livestock,” said Mr Mupamhanga.
“It comes from the perspective of the government, we hope that becomes effective. It is healthy because the local people will contribute to the solutions.”
Mr Mupamhanga said they had also toured Mashonaland West and recently Mashonaland Central with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and there is general excitement with the way farmers have taken up the programme.
“It is our hope that this year we will begin to see the end of importation of grain into Zimbabwe. It is imperative for us not to be importing food because we have the land that is Zimbabwe, which is rich in soil,” he said.
Article Source: The Chronicle