Saturday, May 29, 2010

(HERALD) No more free lunch, says Made

No more free lunch, says Made

IN line with the land reform programme, the Government is now implementing a new mechanisation phase that deals with a farmer’s specific requirements while seeking to boost production and value addition to the produce through irrigation development and strategic marketing. Herald Features Editor Isdore Guvamombe (IG) talks to Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made (JM) on this and other issues.

IG: Minister, what exactly is your ministry doing at the moment?

JM: Firstly, let me explain that agriculture mechanisation and irrigation development must be seen in the context of President Mugabe’s strategic intention to take the land reform programme as a process to empower our people. The land reform gave our people the chance to own land and it is a process that is not complete. It is on-going.

So we must immediately address issues of production and productivity.

Direction was given that we modernise agriculture if we are to empower those who benefited from the land reform programme. We must give them the tools of the trade; we must give them the right equipment for proper and maximum production.

You might also be interested to know that in 2004 we looked at Zimbabwe and its 30 years horizon of agriculture and came up with a strategy. That strategy is what anchors the activity that we are now working on.

IG: Is that the time you were with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe?

JM: Yes, RBZ worked well that time, with us giving the technical expertise of what was required by the new farmer, the communal farmer, the old resettlement farmer, and the small scale farmer.

IG: Has RBZ handed over the reins to you?

JM: Yes, the RBZ has handed over the programme to this ministry.

IG: So there is a new phase of mechanisation?

JM: Yes, but let me quickly emphasise that there is going to be nothing for free this time. The farmer has to pay a certain deposit first.

Where something is not for free people become more responsible. I am not saying we are abandoning our farmers but they certainly should pay something, this time around. The equipment coming is not for free; it is for serious farmers, small or big. You must make a down payment of some sort and I know our serious farmers want to pay.

IG: Is this a lesson from previous phases?

JM: We have to learn from previous experience. What you have not worked for is easy to destroy or dispose off. Of course, I know our farmers have problems but some of the equipment has been deliberately vandalised or stolen in an act of sabotage.

Some of the things that happened to the farmers were meant to short-change them.

IG: At what stage is the new phase?

JM: With immediate effect needy farmers should indicate their machinery, equipment and irrigation requirements at district and provincial level.

Not at the head office in Harare, no! All activities and assessments must be done at district level so that the assessment is a reflection of the real situation on the ground.

I don’t want anyone to apply in excess of his or her actual requirement. We want our field officers to check on the ground.

We risk giving a small farmer a huge pump or motor, we want to give the right size, of course with room for expansion.

We are now busy collecting information on the needs of the farmer. Specific needs in their totality as regards the type of equipment and size the individual farmer requires as well as the size of irrigation. There is no need to give someone something too big for a small project; of course we must leave room for expansion.

IG: Is irrigation becoming our main thrust?

JM: Yes, irrigation should be the main anchor so that we increase our land utilisation throughout the year. The bulk of our crop will remain our summer crop but we want to increase effective winter period production. Summer is having problems with climate change, change in weather patterns.

Wherever we are going in search of new equipment we are looking at effective energy saving equipment. Energy is a serious matter so we are looking at centre pivots, drip and flood irrigation.

If you bring equipment that requires a lot of electricity you have problems.

IG: Where is the equipment?

JM: We are currently undertaking visits to other countries to negotiate for appropriate resources and appropriate technology.

IG: Which countries are helping you?

JM: This is not a secret. Leading countries supporting us technically and strategically are China, India, Brazil, Iran, Russia, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and Egypt. These countries have made it clear that they want to strategically help us develop.

As we are talking we have 10 specialists from China at national level and we are soon going to have 10 Chinese experts for each province in Zimbabwe.

Each of the countries we are visiting we have specific areas of interest in relation to infrastructure, cotton, tobacco and livestock production. We have a serious thrust for food security crop production. We also need to look at the global market and bring our produce to this market for our country to be self-sufficient.

We have a team of experts leaving for Brazil next week. My recent visit to Brazil was very constructive. It gave us an opportunity to see how strategically the Government does not give chance to failure when there are other options.

It gave us an insight into how to develop infrastructure for grain and crop marketing, the production of machinery and equipment so as the marketing of agriculture commodities.

We saw in Brazil how three ministries related to agriculture marketing, production and fisheries get details on the day to day running of the projects through state agencies.

The ministries are involved in the management of things and make the farmers gain maximum profits. This is why as Zimbabwe we are now advocating the reintroduction of product marketing boards to avoid what we are seeing in tobacco, cotton, beef and dairy sectors and in the running of irrigation schemes.

Strategically, Zimbabwe is not far away from these things, the problem is that they are on paper and we need to implement them.

IG: Like the case in tobacco marketing?

JM: If you look at what is happening in the tobacco marketing and cotton is analysed, you will see our efforts going down the drain.

We have middlemen, that instead of farmers getting better prices, there are actually many problems in transport and packaging material. The marketing and pricing is what should give the farmers the impetus to go back to the fields.

IG: What should be done?

JM: The Government must take an interventionist approach so that as our farmers grow, we protect them, without necessarily overprotecting them.

We have to return to very strong strategic intervention, even in partnership with the private sector.

We cannot leave the farmers to the vagaries of those we deposed off the land. They want to come back and destroy our farmers, our country and our sovereignty. Agriculture has to take a leading role in the defence of the country, through food security and employment.

This is the basis on which the youth are supported and empowered.

IG: Which other sector has great potential in Zimbabwe’s agriculture?

JM: Livestock production. When I was in Brazil recently, I noticed that Brazil has 200 million head of cattle. Yes, I mean 200 million head of cattle. In Zimbabwe our calving rate is just around 35 percent when it should be between 60 and 85 percent.

IG: Why?

JM: Because we are not doing proper animal husbandry. We are not dipping our cattle enough, we are not de-worming our cattle and we are not feeding them well. We need to improve on that area.

We have cattle that do not conceive for up to two years. We also need to improve on dairy production. Livestock and poultry in particular have quick returns. So we are mechanising in that area.

We are not seeking to reinvent the wheel we want to learn from others. We have the potential because we have the land.

Back to Brazil we have signed a memorandum of co-operation in areas such as training, food security, rural development, research and extension services and technical assistance.

You should see the type of equipment from Brazil that will be displayed at the Harare Agricultural Show in August. It is good equipment.

Our meeting in Brazil concentrated on manufacturing and procurement of equipment for the small to medium dairy farmers too.

There is another great potential there.

Indonesia has done a lot about their slaughter-houses and with the infrastructure left by Cold Storage we surely should do something about it and develop.

Finally, in short, we are proceeding with mechanisation on specific farmer requirements and we are working with our technical partners to ensure that the vision of empowering the people becomes reality.

We now have enough wheat seed for two years and I am sure we are going towards the same direction in the production of maize seed.

With appropriate equipment, we will get there.

isadore.guvamombe ***

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home