SECRETARY for Mechanisation Agriculture, and Irrigation Development ministry, Ringson Chitsiko, yesterday accused suppliers of farming inputs and traders of shortchanging small-scale farmers through price distortions and contract farming.
In a speech read on his behalf at a Small-Scale Organic Farmers’ Forum meeting at Fambidzanayi Permaculture Centre in Harare, he said government should find ways to enable small-scale farmers to be self-sustainable.
“We are aware that if we are not careful, the very farmers who have gained access to land in the last decade or so will become cheap labour in the food system for all the other players,” Chitsiko said.
“They will toil away and receive a pittance for their efforts while the input suppliers, the traders, the processors and the retailers make handsome profits.
“We must find ways which enable small-scale farmers to gain good and just livelihoods in a sustainable way.”
Chitsiko also said there was need to be circumspect in adopting technology and practices from the West at the expense of the traditional ways and in particular in the area of seed developed over the years through indigenous knowledge systems.
“We can and must keep improving seed, but we must do this carefully and in a way that enriches rather than undermines the complexity and stability of small-holder farming systems,” Chitsiko said.
His sentiments came in the wake of an international campaign to introduce strong patent laws that will criminalise the tradition of sharing seed among small-holder farms.
Chitsiko said there was need to carefully analyse effects of various bio-technology before importing it into the country.
“We have, for example, resisted the introduction of Genetically modified organisms in Zimbabwe because it is not clear to us who will benefit from this,” he said.
“We don’t believe that it is a priority at this stage. We will keep assessing the advantage of modern technologies in light of whether they will benefit farmers and also in terms of whose interests they really serve.”