Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Matabeleland South Bureau
THE Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) Antelope Estate in Matobo District, Matabeleland South Province, has produced 3 920 tonnes of high grade potatoes from 56 hectares planted during the winter season.
The estate has another 30 hectares under potatoes set for harvesting next month and preparation for the 2022/23 farming season is underway. A total of 90ha will be put under potatoes while 45ha is targeted for hybrid maize seed and 534ha under soya beans.
Arda partnered with an investor, Trek Petroleum at Antelope Estate in Maphisa and transformed the area into an agro-processing hub in the province.
Arda Antelope will soon have a flour milling plant for the locally produced wheat as part of rural development and industrialisation.
The organisation has a mandate to ensure maximum land utilisation towards realisation of Governmment’s upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) play a key role in this matrix as they add impetus in fast-tracking attainment of set economic targets. Arda, in partnership with private sector players, has enhanced its production capacity and improved ouput both under rain-fed schemes and irrigation.
One of the flagship projects is the partnership between Arda and Trek Petroleum at Antelope Estate and Ingwizi Estate.
Since February 2015 when Arda entered into partnership with Trek Petroleum, Antelope and Ingwizi Estates, which were on the verge of collapse, have registered improved output, creating more job opportunities for local communities.
It is envisaged that the establishment of a processing factory in Maphisa would necessitate a quick road infrastructure upgrade and attract more service providers to invest in the fast-growing business centre. The revival of the agriculture sector as the backbone of the country’s economy is at the heart of the Second Republic.
The farming project, which has also created employment for locals in the largely rural province characterised by low rainfall patterns, continues to record increased yield under the revitalised agricultural production drive.
The estate is fast becoming a major supplier of potatoes, not only in the Matabeleland region, but in Mashonaland provinces.
Zimbabwe has a well-established history of potato production. Apart from giving high returns per invested dollar to the farmer, the crop contributes significantly to the nation’s food security.
As such, Government declared potatoes as one of the strategic crops to enhance food security at household and national levels.
In May, Government launched the Potato Value Chain Financing Facility at Parklands Farm in Norton, which is part of the country’s import substitution intervention strategies to boost productivity and profitability in the potato value chain and expand the country’s starch options.
The programme is meant to ease the shortage of the seed potato, which has resulted in the country importing something in the region of 60 percent of its requirements mostly from neighbouring South Africa.
The total annual potato production countrywide has been increasing exponentially from about 400 000 tonnes in the 2013/14 agricultural season to about 600 000 tonnes in the 2019/20 agricultural season.
This high level of production requires a strong seed supply system if the national target of planting 20 000ha of potatoes annually or even more is to be achieved.
The average yields for potatoes in Zimbabwe are 17-20 tonnes per hectare in summer and 25-40 tonnes per hectare in winter.
Arda has accelerated its agriculture transformation strategy aimed at unlocking higher value for farmers and improving lives in rural communities.
President Mnangagwa has always reiterated that the Second Republic’s objective was to facilitate inclusive development where ordinary people in communities participate in project development.
Arda Antelope Estate manager, Mr Aleck Chinyai said they completed harvesting the potatoes last week.
“We have seen a massive improvement both on the area planted and yield recorded in terms of potato production. We had 56 hectares under potatoes and wheat, which we have just finished harvesting,” he said.
“Each hectare gave us an average of 70 tonnes. We have started preparing land for the summer cropping season.” Mr Chinyai said their market base for potatoes has expanded from supplying the local community to markets in Bulawayo and Harare.
“The grade and size of our potatoes has improved which has increased the demand. We supply a number of fast foods outlets in several towns and our markets are not only confined to the Matabeleland region, but we also supply markets in Harare,” he said.
“Harvesting of wheat is also underway and we are targeting an output of 4 000 tonnes at an average yield of 7,1 tonnes per hectare.”
Acting provincial agricultural rural development service for Matabeleland South, Mr Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu said productivity at Arda Antelope will boost food security at household level in the province.
Launching the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) in November 2020, President Mnangagwa said under the five-year Government economic blue-print, all sectors of the economy are obliged to increase their productivity.
Under the NDS1, more resources and greater momentum are being injected towards dam construction and efficient irrigation systems.
The Second Republic has made food security a top priority and is working towards a US$8,2 billion agriculture industry economy by 2023, underpinned by the country’s NDS1 — the driver towards Vision 2030 to make Zimbabwe an upper middle-class economy.
Article Source: The Chronicle