Elita Chikwati and Audrey Rundofa
Farmers have launched a seed company, Champion Farmer Seed Cooperative, expected to alleviate chronic shortages of certified small grains seed.
The move will also economically empower smallholder farmers. Women will also benefit as they will own and control the means of production.
The company, which was established by the Community Development Technology Trust and financed by Swedish International Development Agency financially, is owned and controlled by smallholder farmers.
The farmers from Mudzi, Mutoko, Tsholotsho and Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, are producing groundnuts, sorghum, pearl millet, open pollinated variety of maize and hybrid maize seed.
The company has produced 120 tonnes of pearl millet, sorghum and groundnut seed and these will be commercially available for the 2017/18 summer cropping season.
In a speech read on his behalf by the permanent secretary, Mr Ringson Chitsiko, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Dr Joseph Made said seed was an important asset for food production.
He said Government welcomed the support from civil society organisations that invested in seed production, augmenting the State’s efforts in making Zimbabwe seed secure and providing the necessary conditions for becoming the bread basket of the SADC region.
“The establishment of Champion Farmer Seed Cooperative Company fits very well with our economic blueprint Zim-Asset, particularly on pillar four, which talks about food and nutrition security,” said Mr Chitsiko.
“The farmers’ income will improve through selling of seed. Our smallholder farmers will also be capacitated with the technical modalities of quality seed production, certification procedures as demanded by our Seed Act (chapter 19:13) and the Seed Regulations and Seed (Certification Scheme) notice, 2000.”
Mr Chitsiko welcomed the participation of smallholder farmers in leading the company as board members and shareholders and said this would boost smallholder farmers’ confidence as significant players in the seed industry.
“As Government, we encourage other civil society organisations and development partners to follow suit since Champion Farmers Seed Cooperative Company has shown that it is very possible to grow these types of seeds,” he said.
“The growing of small grains, particularly groundnuts will address the issue of food and nutrition security where currently Government is falling to meet the demands of the crop due to shortages of high quality certified seed.
“The coming on board of the Champion Farmer Seed Cooperative Company will play a significant role in reducing the deficit.” The Champion Seeds was applauded for its choice of crop for which to produce seed.
“Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT) has also defended national interest at international fora in partnership with Government towards promoting seed sovereignty and improvement of the livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said Mr Chitsiko.
CTDT director, Mr Andrew Mushita, said major seed companies mostly concentrated on maize seed and there was shortage of certified small grains seed.
“We felt there was niche and need, especially because of climate change,” he said. “The new company is contracting farmers to produce small grains seed and we expect that 10 000 farmers will become shareholders in the next few years. We also want to expand the programme to other districts.”
Oxfam Novib executive director Ms Farah Karin, said the new seed company was a way of empowering smallholder farmers.