Government says it is engaging agriculture sector stakeholders to promote and implement a comprehensive transformation which will allow farmers to migrate from conventional farming methods to smart agriculture to improve their yields.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
The transformation will also see the increase in the production of export quality crops as well as adoption of broad pest control mechanisms in the wake of climate change.
In an interview with NewsDay on the sidelines of a cocktail meeting for agriculture transformation team leaders hosted by the Zimbabwe Agriculture Society (ZAS) on Friday, Agriculture permanent secretary John Bhasera said the involvement of the private sector in this ambitious drive was a game changer.
“For the first time, there is that buy-in from the private sector and we can see the farmers were well-represented as well,” Bhasera said.
“That leads to extreme ownership. For any transformation to work, there has to be some kind of that buy-in and extreme ownership so that we can get to a point where people say this is our thing. When that happens, implementation becomes very easy.”
The event, which brought together farmers representatives, extension officers, agriculture experts, economists and top government bureaucrats, was sponsored by seed company Syngenta.
Bhasera said the country was looking at climate-proofing its agriculture, which he said was vulnerable to climate change.
He said the country could tackle climate change by adopting climate smart seed varieties and also the development of irrigation as well as the adoption of water harvesting techniques.
ZAS chief executive officer Anxious Masuka said the initiative had the potential to revive agriculture so that it regains its status as the backbone of the country’s economy.
“Our aim is to make agriculture central to the attainment of government’s vision 2030 and so we need bold, radical and transformative ideas to transform agriculture to uplift communities,” Masuka said.
Syngenta senior agronomist Tawanda Mangisi said: “We should come up with a very good strategy on how we are going to improve the yields and subsequently build the economy through the agriculture sector.
He said the effects of climate change were real and the country had hoped for a better agriculture season this year after last year’s drought, but a mid-season dry spell has all but destroyed hopes.
“We encourage our farmers to go for those seed varieties which are adaptable to these new weather patterns like those varieties we have at Syngenta; the MRI514 and the new one which is the SY5944 which is quite tolerant to drought. So we urge all the farmers to go for the varieties which endure drought,” Mangisi said.
The Switzerland-headquartered agro-chemical conglomerate has taken the initiative to invest heavily in research on better seed varieties and chemicals which can withstand droughts and pests, particularly the fall armyworm which has wreaked havoc across the Sadc region.