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‘Commercialisation key to improving food security’

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STAKEHOLDERS in the agriculture sector have cited commercialisation of smallholder farming as the main key towards improving food security and reducing poverty in the country.

By Staff Reporter

Speaking at a USAID-Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim AIDE) project closeout in Lupane last week, United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton said helping smallholder farmers commercialise their activities would increase incomes and stamp out poverty.

“Collectively, the private sector and government departments are working hard to assure continued sustainability of the gains that have been made by the farmers,” Wharton said.

He noted that besides their significant contribution, smallholder farmers had not received as much support in terms of inputs and training on pertinent issues like market surveys and increasing their yields.

However, partners like the USAID have initiated projects like the Tshongokwe Irrigation Scheme which has transformed the lives of the farmers who can now realise greater, quality yields and compete at the market with other farmers.

“The US government has provided resources to promote good agricultural practices, farming as a business, expanded access to finance through institutions like Quest,” said Wharton.

The Tshongokwe project has been running since 2010 and local farmers have actively participated in the project, supplying quality produce like butternuts, cabbages and rearing livestock.

Although the Zim-AIDE programme is ending, the US government has vowed to continue supporting the country and has promised to launch two more agricultural development programmes.

Delayed and erratic rain has seen most of the crop being destroyed and farmers, especially in Matabeleland North, are facing imminent drought.

Speaking at the event, Agriculture deputy minister Davis Mharapara urged farmers to pay off their loans to ensure
that they received more financing.

Mharapara said smallholder farmers were often faced with lower yields not because of lack of vast fields for larger production, but because they had less access to technical knowledge, markets, credit and inputs such as improved seeds, fertilisers and equipment.

“Addressing these disparities is central to moving towards food security, improved nutrition, increased rural incomes and greater economic growth for Zimbabwe,” he said.

Quest head of lending services Donald Saruro said they felt privileged to be able to assist farmers in boosting the agricultural sector.

“We have worked well with the farmers in Tshongokwe and to date their repayment is 100%. Our services do not require collateral and we base our decisions on thorough vetting of the groups that we work with,” he said.

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