Agric sector set for massive transformation- Govt

By Tafara Chikumira

The government says the agricultural sector is set for a massive transformation based on the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation strategy with stakeholders calling for the adoption of new information technologies for sustainability.

It emerged during the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) congress in Gweru this Tuesday that government has adopted an aggressive approach to turnaround the agriculture sector, with a roadmap already in place.

“The third major intervention is through the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan which serves two main purposes which are to guide and support the revival of the (a) conventional horticulture industry by providing a relevant and evidence-based framework to guide and coordinate the development of commodity-specific strategies, projects and programmes as well as (b) to stimulate a transformative rural horticulture sub-sector under the Presidential Horticulture Scheme covering all million rural households.

“The interventions will go a long way towards food and nutrition security, import substitution; export promotion and diversification, value addition and beneficiation, creation of employment and most importantly improved livelihoods,” said Deputy Minister for Lands, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Resettlement Honourable Vangelis Haritatos.

ZFU President, Mr Abdul Nyathi spoke on the need for a bailout plan to support farmers who were adversely affected by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

“Let’s take this opportunity to rethink the way we do business as farmers. Our sector was the most hit as some farmers could not sell their produce at their intended markets. We have suffered huge losses and a bailout plan for farmers should be put in place if we are to remain in business.”

Some farming experts who attended the congress say the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a paradigm shift for the agricultural sector.

“One thing that has since emerged from the crisis is the importance of communication. There is a need for effective communication from the farmer to the extension farm workers as well as the market in general. The use of ICTs therefore becomes critical as these can enhance easy communication.”

“Farmers used to think that the only way to market their products is through taking them to the markets in town or at growth points. However with effective use of ICTs, one can attract the markets to their farms. We were also used to travel to farmers to educate them on the best farming methods. We say now is the time to rethink our approach and package our programmes in a technological format where the farmers can gather and learn as a group from technological devices.”

The ZFU congress which was running under the theme “Building back better: Lessons from the COVID-19 experiences” also witnessed 27-year old Prosper Chikwara from Umzingwane in Matabeleland South clinching the prestigious young farmer of the year award for his outstanding work in horticultural production.

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