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All ministries must have functional youth desks: VP Chiwenga

Story by Justin Mahlahla

Vice President General (Retired) Dr Constantino Chiwenga says all government ministries must have functional and well-structured youth desks to champion the empowerment of the country’s youths.

He was speaking this Friday as Guest of Honour during the Young Farmer Awards in Harare.

The event was organised by the Agricultural Youth Desk under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Farmers Union.

Vice President Chiwenga appreciated the role played by young farmers in contributing to national food security, calling on other ministries to emulate the Ministry of Agriculture which has set up a vibrant youth desk to assist young farmers.

“Government on several times directed all ministries to establish fully-fledged Youth Desks to promote structured youth participation. Again on the 4th of July 2023, Cabinet directed all ministries to expedite and operationalise Youth Desks, fortunately or unfortunately, the Agricultural Youth Desk under Hon Minister Masuka seems to be the only ministry with a functional Youth Desk. We call upon other ministries who are yet to establish Youth Desks to draw some nots from the Agricultural ministry and act as directed by the Government,” said Vice President Chiwenga.

He said the achievement of Food Security and Nutrition Goals under the Vison 2030 requires young farmers to work hand in hand with value chain actors, adding that youth empowerment initiatives which were started by the Second Republic are now bearing fruits.

Some of the results, noted Vice President Chiwenga, include the establishment of an Agricultural Youth Desk, headed by Mr Nickros Kajengo and with structures in all provinces.

The desk coordinates youth activities in the agricultural sector, and, currently the Agricultural Youth Desk under the Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services is coordinating the Village Business Unit which are key components of the Rural Development 8.0.

Similarly, government established Provincial Youth Integrated Hubs where 5 000 youth were trained and oriented in the theory and sustainable farming practices. This year, 1 000 youths have been trained under various programmes in Masvingo and recently at Chaminuka Training Centre under the Village Business Unit Programme.

Under the Small Holder Irrigation Revitalization Scheme, the Ministry through International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) trained 1 213 youths on entrepreneurial skills and management and acquired starter up kits to start own projects for self-reliance.

In addition, under the Better Lives and Better Farms Projects, the Ministry through Bayer German and World Vision supported 150 000 youths with maize seed as an answer to the COVID-19 pandemic challenge, while under the Green Jobs for Rural Youth Employment, the Ministry through Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) more than 200 youths have been transformed into agro-entrepreneurs and am advised that the project is also being extended to new districts such as Mudzi, Mutoko, UMP and Murewa.

Many other initiatives were started to support the youths, including the Opportunities for Rural Youth (OYE) where government, through SNV, supported 17 000 youths with starter kits and were trained on soft skills.

Government also facilitated the participation of young farmers at the COP 28 conference where Government launched a Green Economy Magazine.

Vice President Chiwenga said the current agriculture sector’s performance is anchored by a vision and clear roadmap that resonates with the aspirations enshrined in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030, National Development Strategy 1, Sustainable Development Goals, Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan and Africa Agenda 2063.

“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy of Zimbabwe with potential to contribute up to 20% of GDP and providing livelihoods to approximately 70% of the country’s population. It is worth noting that youth in agriculture plays a significant role in enhancing food and nutrition security through increased agricultural production. The Agricultural sector is considered strategic in terms of creating employment opportunities and income for the youth,” he added.

General Chiwenga applauded the Honourable Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr. Anxious Masuka, for working closely with his fellow ministers in government.

“Most important is the collaboration between Lands and Youth ministries on the Presidential Village Business Unit and the Provincial Youth Intergraded Hubs that speak fully to the Rural Development 8.0 mantra aimed at industrialising rural communities through agriculture. This economic revolution is being fronted by youth and women in the agricultural sector.”

“Our programming is buttressed by a strong belief that Zimbabwe can prevail agriculturally amidst the Tripple Cs challenge namely; Climate change, COVID-19 and the Conflict in Eastern Europe. This prompted government leadership to reflect and think critically about the need to produce enough food for the people of Zimbabwe and to generate surplus. As such, the sector’s trajectory is always targeting nothing less than a sustained growth and transformation of the sector anchored on seamless transitioning of farmers in general from subsistence-oriented farming to commercial farming for surplus and commerce. In all its programming, the Ministry is envisaging the transformation of over 360,000 A1 farmers and 20,000 A2 farmers into serious business men and women. Likewise, the 3 million smallholder farmers are steadily transiting from largely being subsistence farmers to surplus and commercially oriented through the religious implementation of the ambitious Rural Development 8.0 programming,” he added.

The Vice Preisdent saluted intergovernmental agencies such as FAO, UNICEF and UNDP, among others, for supporting young farmers and (including, men and women, urban and per-urban farmers) which is key to the development and success of the agricultural industry.

“I am also grateful to SNV, IFAD and Priority Projects Publishing for working with the youth in agriculture in pursuit of total economic empowerment and enhancement of livelihoods for our youths as we are journeying towards Vison 2023.I therefore urge institutions working with young farmers to involve various stakeholders and venture into enterprises that supports the youth in our communities,” he said.

“I am very grateful to Hon Minister Masuka and his team for coordinating this event. I am as well grateful to Federation of Young Farmers Clubs Trust of Zimbabwe and ZFU for partnering with government in this noble cause. Young Farmer Profiling and recognition is key. All actors in the agricultural value chains should be fully supported and members of the media are not spared from this exercise. I am honoured to be handing over medals, several prizes to young people in the agricultural value chains. Our economy is gradually growing and huge developments that have been put by the 2nd Republic are now being realized. Brick by brick we are rebuilding Zimbabwe. Nyika Inovakwa nevene Vayo.”

Several young farmers identified from around the country walked away with various prizes in recognition of their hard work in farming, technology and innovation, climate change adaptation and other categories. Online, digital, print and electronic journalists who have supported young farmers were also honoured at the ceremony.

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