Sunday Mail Reporter Norman Muchemwa recently sat down with Agriculture and Rural Development Authority chair Mr Basil Nyabadza to talk about how Arda is going about fulfilling its mandate and what its plans for the future are. The following are excerpts of what Mr Nyabadza said.
As Arda, during the last 24 months, we have implemented Government policy on public-private partnerships, which is the cornerstone of our development and progress.
And, indeed, in all our 21 estates, there is now activity taking place.
The challenge we face now is to double our production in plantations, cereals, horticulture, livestock, wildlife, small grains and oil seeds – those are the issues we are involved in. And we are seeing that with the new Government in place, Arda has embarked on doubling production, which is the clear mandate we have from our minister (of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Perrance Shiri); that we must double on whatever we have on the ground because we now have access to capital.
The only complaint we have in some of our areas is siltation and access to additional water in some of our estates.
Those are the only obstacles; otherwise, in terms of resources, we deployed the public-private partnership policy of Government to access additional resources.
The main issue is what our name and mandate implies, which is rural development. By far, that’s the biggest challenge and the biggest responsibility we have.
As we speak, seven out of ten of our citizens live in rural areas. So we cover all aspects of development there and we must expand our economic activity through our estates and outgrower programmes.
Equally, we are now focusing on value addition so that our people benefit.
On August 17, as you are aware, we were in Matebeleland South, Matobo district, precisely at Arda Antelope Estate.
During the tour, Vice-President (Dr Constantino Chiwenga) raised fundamental questions on four of our products, which come from agriculture. The first one was why are we growing wheat in the rural areas and our farms and sending that wheat to Harare and Bulawayo for milling and for baking?
We must now, if we grow wheat in our rural provinces, we must now structure the way forward founded on bakeries, milling facilities, milk facilities and abattoir facilities to be anchored in provinces. In each province, we must have a minimum of those four value addition centres.
In other words, why do we grow maize in Karoi, transport it to Harare for milling, and take the mealie meal back to Karoi, who is bearing that cost? That has to be eliminated and that’s our mandate for the next five years. That is the same thing with milk: why do we have milk on the farms outside Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru or Mutare and take milk to the big cities and then take it back to our consumers.
Why do we have to process the meat in urban areas; there is no reason for that? We should view urban areas like Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru as our markets. Production, processing and marketing should be done in provinces.
So, really, that’s the thrust Arda is going to spearhead in the next five years.
And when you think about it, we have situations where bread is baked in Marondera and transported to Bulawayo.
It’s not so much about the bread, it’s about the fuel – we import fuel in this country and how do we justify moving bread 450km to Bulawayo and back.
Who is paying for that fuel? The nation is paying for that fuel, and surely, don’t we have that technology to put ovens in other areas? Because that’s the way we should progress.
The challenge now is for Arda not only to produce, but to do the same thing as we are doing at Chisumbanje ethanol plant.
You produce, you process and you market from that place; so that’s the sort of approach which my minister and the VP discussed – thats the way we should go.
The other issue, as I said, is about hectares for production, which they said must be doubled, whether its wheat, maize, soya beans – whatever we do – we must double because now we have a very clear position on business, we have found a formula of accessing finance, what is required now is to expand production, value-add and make sure that we keep the prices down and, in so doing, strategically grow crops which bring value to our people.
In other words, he was saying they will like to see each farmer in the village retaining a foreign currency account with the central bank or our respective banks because they are growing tobacco or sugarcane for exports, they are growing groundnuts, these are crops for exports; so at district level, we are going to make sure that we have a dam to grow at least five crops.
And what I am talking about here is, they grow their maize, they must grow tobacco, they must grow groundnuts, they must grow garlic, they must grow ginger; these are dedicated small crops which can be done at village level for exports.
The thrust is that we must now divide our labour and land utilisation under import substitution and exports. That’s clearly the message coming from my minister and the Vice President, who also leads the food and nutrition cluster.
Our task is clearly very clear, but it is now assuming additional responsibility.
At Maphisa, we have finished building a milling facility and electricity has been installed and in the next four or five weeks, we will be officially opening that facility to kickstart that programme of value addition in the rural growth areas.
On Command Agriculture, there is no question that Arda has been a beneficiary because our partners who joined us under the PPP programme are now accessing inputs on time and we make sure that we take advantage of planting on time, taking advantage of seasonal change from summer to winter.
Also, we have installed additional equipment or technology and driers to dry the crops.
We can take the crop from the field at 26 percent moisture level and we dry the crop, which affords us time to plant our winter wheat much earlier.
Command Agriculture is working; we are pleased that it’s being expanded.
We are now talking of Command Livestock, Command Fisheries, Command Small Grains, Command Cereals.
Very shortly, we are putting a paper together so that we have Command Plantations.
The objective here is that we will be, in the next six weeks, launching a huge plantation of picken nuts and will be doing that in Matebeleland North, Umguza district.
We are starting with 10 000 trees as phase one and next August, another 10 000 trees until we do a minimum of 25 000 trees.
In addition, we are also starting an out-grower programme where each family must have mango trees and picken nuts trees.
In some areas, where avocado trees grow, we will also do the projects.
Citrus plantations and macadamia will also be part of the projects.
Now that we have identified 200 000 nursery trees for guavas, mangoes, lemons, avocado trees, we now want each and every family to take up fruit trees, just as they grow tobacco commercially.
We are saying each household must have those trees.
We are now identifying potential investors to come and invest to make sure each province has a fruit processing plant, just as we have in Mashonaland West.
The next province will be Matebeleland South, followed by Manicaland, then we go to Midlands, Masvingo and the rest of the other provinces.
So that’s the roll-out programme for the next five years.
We are not just planning for the next 12 months, but for the next 60 months – that is the mandate.
If we can do these difficult challenges, as we now graduate and put a new Government in the coming week, we are now focusing on rural development.
We now have a clear vision; that’s where growth is, that’s where opportunities are, that’s where seven out of ten of our people are and you can even relate it to the voting pattern of our country.
This is now where the focus of Government will now be directed to.
The urban areas will not be left out, but most energy will be directed to rural areas.
Everyone is now being directed – whether you are in energy, water, education and health – rural development is the theme and the future of our country and for the next five years; that’s the mandate coming from the Presidium.
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