First Lady’s Nerica rice dream comes true . . . Marange community harvests crop

14 Apr, 2024 - 00:04 0 Views
First Lady’s Nerica rice dream comes true . . . Marange community harvests crop First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa (left, front row) admires a Nerica 7 rice field during a tour in Marange on Friday

The Sunday Mail

Tendai Rupapa in MARANGE

AGRIC4SHE Patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa’s dream for Zimbabwe to produce rice has come true.

On Friday, she concluded her weeklong tour of Manicaland province with a first-of-its-kind field visit to a New Rice for Africa (Nerica) rice demonstration centre in Marange, promoting hard work for household food security and potential exports.

Nerica rice, a disease- and drought-resistant African-Asian hybrid, was introduced with Japan’s assistance.

Dr Mnangagwa secured its production in Zimbabwe during her 2022 visit to Japan.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa (left, front row) and Japanese agricultural specialist Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi (centre, front row) tour a Nerica 7 rice field in Ward 12, Marange

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa (left, front row) and Japanese agricultural specialist Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi (centre, front row) tour a Nerica 7 rice field in Ward 12, Marange

During the visit, she held meetings with Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi, an expert in rice production for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Mr Akutsu Kentaro, the JICA senior director in charge of cooperation with Southern African countries; Mr Amameishi Shinjiro, the deputy director-general and group director for agricultural and rural development, during which she made a request for Nerica rice production in Zimbabwe.

She invited Dr Tsuboi to Zimbabwe to lay the groundwork for large-scale rice production.

When the experts came to Zimbabwe last year, Dr Mnangagwa roped in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development to make the rice venture possible.

She envisioned empowering women, reducing rice imports and improving household nutrition.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa being shown a tool used in harvesting Nerica 7 rice, by Japanese agricultural expert Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi in Marange

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa being shown a tool used in harvesting Nerica 7 rice, by Japanese agricultural expert Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi in Marange

The Marange Irrigation Scheme was chosen for the pilot project, with nationwide expansion planned.

The Marange folk produced Nerica varieties 1, 3 and 7.

Nerica 3 and 7 are long-season varieties, while Nerica 1 is the aromatic type.

They harvested the crop together with the First Lady and Dr Tsuboi, who confirmed that Zimbabwe is capable of producing Nerica rice.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa harvests  Nerica 7 rice at  an irrigation scheme in Ward 12, Marange, while Japanese agricultural specialist Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi looks on

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa harvests Nerica 7 rice at an irrigation scheme in Ward 12, Marange, while Japanese agricultural specialist Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi looks on

As a result of the First Lady’s teachings and encouragement, the Marange women are also growing a variety of crops, including brown rice, maize, millet, rapoko, groundnuts, roundnuts, wheat, cowpeas and sugar beans.

In their orchard, they have oranges, avocados, lemons, bananas, naartjies and pawpaw, while the garden has tomatoes, okra, pumpkins, onions, rape and tsunga.

In her speech, the mother of the nation thanked the people of Marange for voting President Mnangagwa and ZANU PF back into office in the August 2023 harmonised elections.

“For us to be here getting projects such as these is out of your good work like what you did in 2023 when you voted well. I thank you for knowing where to vote. Thank you for voting President Mnangagwa and ZANU PF. It is with great pleasure today to be among farmers in Marange, in particular the farmers who have welcomed the initiative to try out Nerica rice production on their farms,” she said.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and Japanese agricultural specialist Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi show Nerica 7 rice during harvesting

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and Japanese agricultural specialist Dr Tatsushi Tsuboi show Nerica 7 rice during harvesting

Agriculture, Dr Mnangagwa emphasised, is an important engine for economic growth and a driver of poverty reduction in rural areas.

“This sector contributes approximately 17 percent to Zimbabwe’s GDP (gross domestic product). In addition, agriculture provides employment and income for 60 to 70 percent of the population. It supplies 60 percent of the raw materials required by industry and contributes 40 percent of total export earnings.

“The consumption of rice in Zimbabwe has increased over the years, with this commodity steadily becoming a staple meal component, which diners prefer over other alternative foods, particularly among the youths. We hear that the rice uptake has increased, but when looking at the population, it is being noticed that the youngsters are the ones who are mostly consuming rice. I then said take rice and dried vegetables and I do not backtrack in terms of our traditional grains that were consumed by our forefathers. It is nutritious.

“Rice is commonly served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As such, rice is among the top imported commodities in Zimbabwe. Over 80 percent of the rice sold and consumed in this country is foreign sourced, spending over US$100 million. Sadly, annual rice production is 2 900 tonnes against a national demand of 300 000 tonnes.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa (right) views vegetables displayed by women  in Ward 12 , Marange, during her visit. - Pictures: Tinai Nyadzayo

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa (right) views vegetables displayed by women in Ward 12 , Marange, during her visit. – Pictures: Tinai Nyadzayo

‘‘The challenges in rice production include unavailability of rice seed varieties on the local market, not excluding high yielding and aromatic rice varieties which consumers prefer and the skills values across the value chain. I want to encourage women and children to the field because this is an easy crop to grow and one which ripens early.

“New Rice for Africa, which is an upland rice, holds great potential to contribute towards food security, hunger reduction and poverty alleviation and also to reduce foreign currency expenditure through import substitution,” she said.

“In addition, the inclusion of women and youths in Nerica rice production is a crucial step in achieving food security and income for all, in line with sustainable development goals. I am, therefore, excited to promote Nerica rice production to boost food security and build climate resilience among women farmers in Zimbabwe, who can benefit from diversifying their cropping programmes,” she added.

The First Lady said in 2022, she went to Japan, where she learnt that some African countries embarked on Nerica rice production and asked Dr Tsuboi to visit Zimbabwe as part of a follow-up to the discussions.

Dr Tsuboi is a renowned Nerica rice expert with over 30 years’ experience.

The First Lady exhorted women and youths to embark on rice production as it empowers families and sustains livelihoods.

“Thank you JICA for working with Zimbabwe through our Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development. My people, food has come. We did not do well because of a poor season, so to improve our welfare, we saw it necessary to grow rice. We are known for hard work and we are learned and we do not sit down,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa urged women and youths to produce the rice at a large scale.

“You should not be infamous for gossip, where you take things from the east and pass them to the west, becoming a conduit of gossip. Let us work hard and produce more, madzimai. Boys and girls, siyanai nezvinodhaka, shun drugs and get busy in the field. Nerica rice has come, we cannot work in the fields when we are drunk. We cannot work in the fields for us to harvest Nerica when we are dead inside, the liver, the lungs are defunct. We cannot achieve anything if we are continuously embarking on drunkenness. Let’s leave drugs and focus on life, our health, isn’t it so? Vanababa who are also taking drugs, let us leave that habit and work hard for our families.

“Mothers should never be found taking mutoriro because it costs us our dignity. We are the same and must respect ourselves. We do not want bad behaviour. Even the way we dress must be dignified,” she said to applause.

Amai Mnangagwa donated a variety of vegetable seeds to everyone who attended the event.

Dr Tsuboi said he was happy that he had ended his 50-year career as a rice expert after fulfilling Amai Mnangagwa’s dream of introducing Nerica rice in Zimbabwe.

“I visited Zimbabwe last November at the invitation of Dr Mnangagwa and planted Nerica rice after having assessed the best areas as indicated by the First Lady. Now, it is harvesting time. I am happy the yield is very high. I can safely confirm that Nerica rice can grow very well in Zimbabwe. There is very high potential. I observed that the one we harvested today, there was no insect damage, neither was it affected by any diseases. I am also happy that the farmers also worked very well,” he said.

He added that if a farmer plants a kilogramme of rice seed, he/she will harvest a 50kg bag of rice.

Mr Shigeki Furuta, the resident representative of JICA in Zimbabwe, said with the right guidance and support, the country could make significant strides in rice production.

“In the year 2007, Dr Tsuboi, a rice expert based in Uganda at the time, visited Zimbabwe. His mission was to provide guidance and support to the Department of Research and Specialist Services for their rice production research. Regrettably, despite the promising start, the progress was hindered by many factors. For many years, the potential of Zimbabwe’s rice production remained largely untapped.

“In November 2022, a turning point emerged when First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa was invited to attend a conference in Tokyo. During the conference, Dr Tsuboi delivered a compelling presentation on Nerica rice production in Africa. Dr Mnangagwa expressed her keen interest in exploring opportunities for restarting rice production in Zimbabwe with the support of JICA,” he said.

Mr Furuta said Dr Akio Goto would continue with Dr Tsuboi’s initiative in Zimbabwe.

He expressed gratitude to all stakeholders involved and said together, the country could harness the potential of rice cultivation to foster sustainable development and prosperity in Zimbabwe.

Farmers in Marange were upbeat and thanked the First Lady for her intervention.

One of the farmers, Mrs Margaret Tsoriyo (66), could not hide her joy.

“I am a farmer at the Marange Irrigation Scheme. We were just used to growing crops without knowing how best it is done but with the First Lady’s teachings through her Agric4She programme, I now understand the importance of every crop. Our mother has brought a new rice variety, which we are delighted with. We have fully embraced the crop. We look forward to getting into exports and to get lots of income. We are also working with our children in the field,” she said.

Her views were echoed by Mr Elton Nzarayebani (38).

“I wish to thank the First Lady for the programmes that she is bringing to us. As of now, we want to thank her for Nerica, which she brought to Zimbabwe. Here we also have beans, which were bio-fortified with zinc and iron. We also have orange maize, which was bio-fortified with Vitamin A, so we thank Amai for her educative and empowerment programmes. Nerica will help us on nutrition, income generation and save us from buying rice,” he said with a broad smile.

Mrs Beauty Mutonho explained how she grew the rice under the guidance of Dr Tsuboi.

“We planted this rice on November 20, 2023. We ploughed, levelled the ground and drew lines that are 30cm between rows. We planted the seeds 2cm apart while the depth was 3 to 4cm. We applied compound D fertiliser after three weeks and ammonium nitrate (AN) after 70 days. We used 15kg compound D fertiliser and 25kg AN. We thank our mother heartily for bringing us this rice and we used only 1kg seed but we harvested a lot today. I did not know this type of rice but it germinated very well,” she said.

Mr Albiot Maronge, who represented the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution Misheck Mugadza, thanked the First Lady for her benevolence.

“Your Excellency, I welcome you here in Marange and thank that you have been with us here in Manicaland province for the whole week from Sunday to today. Today, you have come here at the Marange Irrigation Scheme for a rice field day. This was born out of the work that you started through friendship with JICA, whom you asked to work with us. We are seeing the fruits of your work,” he said.

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