‘We’ve enough grain reserves’ – Minister

Anxious Masuka
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ZIMBABWE is one of the only two African countries that are self-sufficient in wheat as Government’s agriculture transformation strategy starts bearing fruit, a Cabinet minister has said.

President Mnangagwa launched the US$8,2 billion Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy in August 2020 and its objective is to boost food production.

The strategy meant to enhance food security from household level as the country works towards achieving an upper middle-income economy by 2030, has started recording success.

The country has stopped grain imports as it is producing enough to meet demand after Government committed more resources to the agriculture sector to boost production.

This year, Government will introduce a two-wheeled tractor to replace ox-drawn ploughs as it moves to mechanise agricultural production.

The country will also increase the hectarage of irrigable land to reduce dependence on unpredictable rain-fed farming.

Speaking during a National Thanksgiving and Dedication Service held in Bulawayo last Friday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said Presidential strategies to transform the agriculture sector have started producing results.

“Let me talk about some recent success, you probably know that Zimbabwe was joined by Ethiopia, only two weeks ago, as the only two African countries that are self-sufficient in wheat. Yes, for the first time in the history of the country we have produced 375 000 tonnes of wheat, enough for our requirement for 13 months,” said Dr Masuka.

Zimbabwe requires 360 000 tonnes of wheat annually and for years the country imported wheat from Ukraine.

But the Russian-Ukrainian war escalated the need for nations to become self-sufficient as the war affected supply chains and increased the price of wheat. 

Dr Masuka said as a result of the climate-proofing agriculture such as Pvumfudza/Intwasa now supporting 3,5 million rural and peri-urban farmers, the country has stopped grain imports.

He said the country has adequate stocks to last the country until the next harvest. 

“When we climate-proofed agriculture at household level, In the 2020/21 season we produced 2,9 million tonnes of maize, the highest the country has ever produced. Last year, because we had the mid-season drought, we produced 1,5 million tonnes but we had enough in the strategic grain reserves hence we are not importing,” said Dr Masuka.

He said the Grain Marketing Board had 451 761 tonnes of maize and 760 920 tonnes of small grains enough to last the country until the next harvest.

“Now Zimbabwe is food secure as a result of the Government’s strategies to boost food production,” said Minister Masuka.

He said as the majority of citizens are rural-based, Government is implementing agriculture projects that seek to uplift the rural communities from subsistence farming to surplus.

Dr Masuka said President Mnangagwa believes Vision 2030 can only be realised if the country develops rural communities by enhancing agricultural production.

He said several interventions have therefore been put in place to boost food production in rural areas.

Minister Masuka said President Mnangagwa launched the poultry, goats, cotton and teak grease programme as part of the strategies to ensure that rural communities are involved in the economic development of the country. 

“His philosophy is that agricultural development would lead to rural industrialisation. Rural industrialisation would lead to rural development and rural development would see us realising 2030. It is agriculture that is at the epicentre of this transformative journey towards vision 2030 which His Excellency has clearly articulated,” said Dr Masuka.

He said Government is in the process of revolutionising the country’s farming through procurement of mini-tractors.

“The biggest challenge is that at small holder level, the ox-drawn plough and hoe are the biggest limiting factors to increasing production. President has therefore directed that we avail two- wheel tractors in villages and we will start this soon” said Dr Masuka.

“This year alone we have distributed more than 1 600 tractors. Ordinarily the private sector sells about 500 tractors per year. Government has just secured a supply of 3 337 from Belarus and these will be arriving from May. This is unprecedented in the history of the country.” 

He said due to climate change, the country cannot depend on rain-fed agriculture hence President Mnangagwa’s directive that more land be irrigated.

Dr Masuka said linked to irrigation programme is the construction of water bodies hence Government is in the process of constructing 12 high-impact dams including Lake Gwayi Shangani.

“In terms of irrigation development, the President has a very ambitious programme. He has directed 350 000 ha be put under irrigation by 2025 and we have 187 000 ha so far. These are the transformative interventions as the President says no one and no place needs to be left behind,” said Dr Masuka.

He said the Presidential intervention programmes include restoring the dignity of women and girls through availing clean water to communities.

Dr Masuka said vision 2030 cannot be achieved when women and girls walk long distances to fetch water hence the President’s programme to drill more boreholes.

He said Government has secured borehole drilling rigs to ensure that each of the country’s 35 000 villages has access to clean water.

“We now have received 16 drilling rigs out of the 80 that Zimbabwe National Water Authority requires and about 500 villages have been covered,” said Dr Masuka.

He said when water has been availed communities are expected to engage in horticulture projects and fisheries to enhance food security. 

 “The President has said each of the 35 000 villages will have two fish ponds and we have already launched this in Mangwe District, Matabeleland South,” said Minister Masuka. – Herald