Joy as DDF tills fields in Mat North

Matabeleland North Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Richard Moyo test drives a tractor during the Matabeleland North smallholder farmers tillage support programme launch at Inyathi’s Mahlabathini Village in Bubi District yesterday.

A 79-YEAR-OLD frail-looking woman sheds tears of joy as she watches three tractors ploughing her one-hectare piece of land in Mahlabathini Village, Inyathi Matabeleland North.

A widow, Mrs Paulina Sibanda who lives alone, has over the years lived off food handouts from neighbours and the Government.

The past three consecutive drought years have worsened her plight because neighbours she used to depend on also harvested virtually nothing.

Now the heavens have opened up but Mrs Sibanda could not take advantage of the good rains due to age and poor health.

She could not prepare the land for planting like her neighbours hence her excitement when she was selected to be among the first beneficiaries of the District Development Fund (DDF) 2020/2021 tillage programme.

Mrs Paulina Sibanda, one of the beneficiaries of the programme (Picture by Nkosizile Ndlovu)

The programme which was launched yesterday in Matabeleland North is meant to boost food production thereby enhancing communities’ food security. It will see vulnerable members of the community including the elderly, child headed families and the physically challenged accessing tillage services being provided by DDF in partnership with More Food for Africa (MFFA) organisation. Under the programme Government targets to have ploughed 63 000 hectares of land countrywide by the end of next month.

In Matabeleland North, the programme will benefit more than 1 000 families and is meant to complement the Gatshompo/Pfumvudza Climate Proof Presidential Input Scheme being funded by Government.

Each household apart from being assisted with tillage, will receive a standard input package of 5kg seed, 50kg basal and 50kg top dressing fertiliser.

At the launch yesterday one of the tractors that ploughed Mrs Sibanda’s piece of land was being driven by Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Richard Moyo, a confirmation of the importance attached to the programme.

Mrs Sibanda said she could not believe that she now has a piece of land ready for planting before the end of the year.

“Today is my happiest day as a land owner because for once after so many years, I will be able to eat from my land. I was unable to prepare the land for planting because I stay alone as all my children are grown up and live far away. I cannot believe that a whole minister took time to come and help an old woman like me till the land so that I plant,” she said.

Mrs Sibanda said she will do her best to ensure she realises a good harvest given that the season was promising to be a good one.

Speaking during the launch, Minister Moyo, said by the end of January, 1 000 families would have benefited.

“The Government of Zimbabwe, being a people-centred Government, is embarking on the tillage support programme through the DDF and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement in order to alleviate some of the challenges being faced by smallholder farmers.

“These challenges are militating against food security in the various communities,” said Minister Moyo.

“The challenges mainly relate to lack of draught power which has been exacerbated by the devastating drought and the outbreak of tick-borne diseases which has resulted in the death of livestock.

“The tillage support programme will provide tillage services to the vulnerable in communities including child headed families, the elderly and those who are physically challenged,” he said.

Minister Moyo said assistance will also be rendered to those farmers without draught power who benefited from the Presidential Input Scheme.

“Through the tillage programme it is envisaged that more than 63 000 hectares of land would have been ploughed countrywide by the end of January 2021 thereby enhancing food security among communities. In this province the target is to have ploughed more than 500 hectares,” he said. – Chronicle