Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu/ Patrick Chitumba, Chronicle Reporters
FARMERS at Port Bury Irrigation Scheme in Umzingwane District are set to receive a US$1 000 dividend each, their hard work contributing to the country’s first wheat surplus.
They expect to start harvesting next week after which they will deliver to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
This year a record 80 000 hectares were put under wheat to produce over 384 000 tonnes against a national requirement of 360 000 tonnes.
As a result, Government is in the process of coming up with strategic wheat reserves, a development that will see the GMB expanding its infrastructure including storage space to accommodate increased production.
Under the Second Republic, Government is prioritising the revival of the agricultural sector through the development of irrigation schemes to alleviate food insecurity and poverty particularly in rural communities.
A number of irrigation schemes that had been idle in the province have been revived while some that were underutilised have been capacitated and expanded.
Managers have also been deployed to schemes across the country to maximise production thereby ensuring food security and nutrition. Farmers in Matabeleland have not been left out, and this is evident as farmers start harvesting their wheat, contributing to the surplus.
At Port Bury Irrigation Scheme, Government’s hand in rural agriculture transformation is visible.
In 2020, the farmers made attempts to resuscitate their operations. Government then intervened last year through the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda). The farmers received a $9 million loan through the Agricultural Finance Company (AFC), formerly Agribank which they used to repair farming equipment. They also received farming equipment and inputs from Government.
The farmers have 35 hectares under winter wheat. The irrigation scheme has 18 members.
Their hard work is now bearing fruit.
Arda resident manager for Port Bury Irrigation Scheme, Ms Florence Moyo said harvesting of the crop was set to start next week. She said each farmer was expected to receive a dividend of US$1 000.
Members of the scheme who fully participate at the scheme also receive monthly salaries.
“We expect to begin harvesting the wheat crop next week and it will be delivered to the GMB. Each farmer is set to receive a dividend of US$1 000 after sales,” said Ms Moyo.
Arda chief executive officer, Mr Tinotenda Mhiko said an average yield of 6-7 tonnes per hectare was expected from the irrigation scheme. He said this has a huge impact on the rural transformation strategy which seeks to see famers move from subsistence to commercial farming.
“We see employment creation at this scheme. Household beneficiaries are both employees and shareholders of the scheme. The farmers are now economically empowered and they can achieve food self-sufficiency. The production we see here is also a critical step towards value addition which is our next step in our transformation journey to catalyse rural development initiative,” he said.
A farmer at the irrigation scheme, Mr Thulani Moyo said the major challenge they faced was capitalisation and this was the first time they were fully utilising the scheme with Government’s intervention.
“We were struggling to get on our feet because of resource constraints. We had enough water which we are getting from Umzingwane River but we didn’t have resources to sustain our operations. There was a time when we stopped producing completely as we didn’t have the capacity. Initially our constitution stated that members of the irrigation scheme had to come from Ward 20 but we ended up inviting members from across Umzingwane District,” he said.
Mr Moyo said they invited new members who came in with funds to try and boost the irrigation scheme last year.
He said Government came in after realising the commitment they had shown.
Mr Moyo said in addition to the loan they also received a travel irrigator, fertiliser and wheat seed which helped to kick start their operations.
Another farmer Ms Farai Sibanda said the greatest input they had received from Government was the education on how to practise farming as an enterprise.
“When Arda came in they taught us that farming is a business. They taught us that we had to produce and then sell to GMB so that we could get income. They made us realise that the land which we have was our source of livelihood and that we had to utilise it fully in order to fend for our families. We now know that we shouldn’t just grow any crops but we must focus on cash crops,” she said.
Ms Nomuhle Sibanda said it was her first time to see the irrigation scheme performing well. She said this was their first crop which they had planted collectively.
“Our farming operations have now improved and our mindset has changed. We are no longer producing just because we have available land but we are producing because we want to contribute to food production in the country and also to realise income. We are now working collectively with so much precision,” she said.
Addressing the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union 82nd annual congress in Gweru last week, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka said for the first time in the country’s history, a wheat surplus will be realised this year.
“The nation will know that in 2017/2018, we could only produce wheat that this country would consume for two to three months and thereafter we would import. Then President Mnangagwa put in a robust agriculture transformation strategy to ensure wheat sufficiency.
“Then this year we have a record 80 000 ha to produce over 384 000 tonnes of wheat against our national requirements of 360 000 tonnes. In fact, over the past three years we have been consuming an average of 330 000 tonnes of wheat. It therefore means that for the first time in the history of the country, we would have a surplus and that surplus will allow us to begin to think about having the strategic wheat reserves and this year we are well on course to doing so because we have been producing enough wheat to feed the nation for 13 to 14 months,” he said.
The Minister said GMB is at an advanced stage of negotiating with companies that are going to expand storage space to accommodate the increased production.
Dr Masuka said the winter wheat season has shown that working collectively and collaboratively, the country can achieve self-sufficiency.
Article Source: The Chronicle