By Simbarashe Sithole
MASHONALAND Central Provincial Affairs minister Monica Mavhunga has called on local traditional leaders to help enforce the Plant Pest and Diseases Act (Chapter 19:08) following an increase in outbreaks of crop diseases in the province.
Speaking at a tobacco plant health awareness workshop in Bindura on Tuesday, Mavhunga who was represented by her acting deputy director Admore Shereni, said traditional leaders should ensure plant health and preservation of the environment.
“In spite of the achievements in the tobacco sector, the country has continued to face outbreaks of tobacco pests and diseases that threaten the production of tobacco and other solanaceous crops. Traditional chiefs, you also carry the responsibility of ensuring plant health and preservation of the environment,” Mavhunga said.
“For management of pests diseases, the Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement ministry is mandated to enforce compliance under the Plant Pest and Diseases Act (Chapter 19:08). The ministry will continue to develop appropriate legislation, regulation and policies to facilitate agriculture and agribusiness.”
Mavhunga attributed the outbreaks of pests and diseases to poor farming methods by the tobacco farmers.
“This has mainly been attributed to failure by farmers to adhere to the tobacco planting calendar as stipulated by the Plant Pest and Diseases Act. There is an increase in the aphid population and outbreaks of tobacco viruses(tobacco mosaic virus and potato ‘Y’ virus),” she said.
“Crop pests, if not managed, have potential negative effects on yield, production costs, livelihoods and exports (agricultural trade). Crop yields and quality can be reduced significantly if these pests are not well managed. Some of these emerging pests have been reported in more than one crop, for example, Potato Y virus has been reported in tobacco, potatoes and tomatoes.”
Speaking at the same event, Mashonaland Central provincial extension officer Stanslaus Tapererwa implored chiefs to deal with the issues through implimentation of proper procedures while clearing the land for tobacco planting.
“I want to remind our chiefs that in their areas, tobacco farmers should not uproot stalks, something which is contributing to the outbreaks of diseases and pests. The same people are cutting down trees, thereby destroying the environment. May you enforce the law by giving deterrent sentences to the culprits without fear or favour,” Tapererwa said.
Senator for Mashonaland Central Chief Nembire blamed the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (Timb) and the Forestry Commission for issuing letters to tobacco farmers, allowing them to chopdown trees.
“Corruption has taken over at Timb and the Forestry Commission. Many farmers in our areas have letters which allow them to cutdown trees, thereby compromising our authority in dealing with environmental issues,” Nembire lamented.