FARMERS who acquired land under the land redistribution programme have potential to restore the country to its bread basket status in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) past president Wonder Chabikwa has said.
In 2000, the country embarked on the successful Land Reform programme to redistribute the natural resource, which is one of the major causes of the liberation struggle by Zimbabwe’s gallant heroes and heroines that brought Independence and economic emancipation.
And because of the protracted liberation war that brought Independence and economic emancipation as reflected by the successful Land Reform programme, the country today celebrates Heroes Day while Defence Forces Day will be observed tomorrow.
Heroes Day is a public holiday commemorated on the second Monday of August every year to celebrate Zimbabwe’s gallant heroes and heroines (living and dead) who fought selflessly to free the country from white settler colonial bondage.
The Defence Forces Day is celebrated on the Tuesday after Heroes Day in honour of the determination and commitment of the defence forces in defending Zimbabwe’s territorial integrity to foster peace and tranquillity.
Mr Chabikwa, an indigenous commercial farmer who owns 350 hectares of land in Coburn Estate, Chegutu district said before the Land Reform programme, 90 percent of the white commercial farmers did not have formal training in agriculture, but made Zimbabwe the bread basket for the region.
He said it was in this context that the indigenous farmers who benefited from the land though without formal training on agriculture have capacity to restore Zimbabwe to its former glory.
“We have been on the ground for 20 years or so and our farmers have now acquired knowledge and skills that are required to use the land productively and restore Zimbabwe to its former glory in the Sadc region.
“The Government has also supported farming especially to farmers resettled under the Land Reform by ensuring that in every ward across the country has two extension officers to impart knowledge to the new farmer.
“Before the land reform, only 10 percent of the former commercial farmers had formal training in agriculture and thus in the same vein, we are able to restore the country to its bread basket status in the region,” said Mr Chabikwa who has put 30ha under winter wheat this season.
His wheat was now at an early flowering stage.
Out of his 350ha farm, 100ha is arable land and to facilitate the irrigation system at his farm, which he said he acquired in the late 1990s as a result of the economic freedom brought by the liberation fighters, has two centre pivots.
“I got my farm in 1997 under the Commercial Farm Settlement Scheme and this is courtesy of the gallant sons and daughters who fought to liberate this country and today, as Zimbabweans, we now own the means of production allowing us to participate in the country’s economy,” he said.
At his farm, Mr Chabikwa has 100 herds of cattle in addition to 100 flock of goats and a piggery project that he is also running.
Presently, 15ha are also under maize, 2ha (potatoes), 2ha (green mealies), half a hectare yellow pepper, 1ha (tomatoes) and a greenhouse with tomatoes being sold in the market.
“There are limitations on mechanisation for indigenous farmers especially those with farms acquired under the land reform programme though there are schemes by agricultural implement suppliers such as John Deere as well as the Belarus scheme.
“We are lagging behind in terms of mechanisation as well as short and medium term financing because farmers need funding to buy critical inputs such as fertilisers.
“But those facing challenges in using the land productively, they can enter into a joint venture arrangement the Government has come up with aimed at boosting productivity on all agricultural land,” he said.
Last month, the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) announced that it was embarking on a joint venture programme targeting at least 50 000ha under Phase 1 in the upcoming 2022/23 summer cropping season.
The authority is undergoing transformation to spearhead rural development, industrialisation to ensure national food, feed, fibre, biofuels and seed security for the attainment of Vision 2030.
ARDA pursuant to the joint venture programme, invited A1, A2 and commercial farm owners to express interest to join the aforesaid market-led programme in the forthcoming summer crop production.
The ARDA joint-venture programme encompasses two principal components namely: farm owners providing access to land/farms and labour, and the authority providing access to qualified and competent staff for management of the joint venture farms, inputs and working capital support, plant and equipment, access to finance, insurance cover, technical skills transfer, market linkages and favourable farmer returns. Under Vision 2030, the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa is targeting to transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy.
During the period of the old dispensation, most ARDA estates across the country were idle and underutilised owing to years of neglect and lack of investment.
However, the authority’s fortunes have since taken a new trajectory and awakening from slumber since the advent of the Second Republic in November 2017.
Last year, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka pointed out that the Government wanted ARDA to grow the total areas under crops from its 21 estates dotted across the country from 13 000ha to 88 000ha within three years.
The authority’s land holding portfolio straddles 142 000ha at all its estates and the Government wants the combined 88 000ha that is arable to be under different crops to strengthen the revitalisation of the agriculture sector.
A vehicle for food, fibres and bio-fuel security, ARDA has the potential to contribute 500 000 tonnes of cereals annually, 50 000 tonnes of fibre and a massive 250 million litres of ethanol.