Three cheers for our wheat farmers

11 Sep, 2022 - 00:09 0 Views
Three cheers for our wheat farmers

The Sunday Mail

President E.D. Mnangagwa

Our agriculture now internationally acclaimed

Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Revolution is now an international story. Even Western global news networks are now giving it attention, in spite of themselves, and in spite of their entrenched prejudices. In Kigali, Rwanda, where I was for the Africa Green Revolution Forum Summit, our story headlined proceedings. We became a reference point. I met with Madame Patricia Scotland QC, the secretary-general of the Commonwealth. After that meeting, she tweeted: “It was good to hear of Zimbabwe’s agricultural developments.”

IFAD ready to support

I also met with the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, Dr Gilbert Houngbo. IFAD is very keen to support our agricultural plans on smallholder communal agriculture.

Shaking off undeserved basket-case tag

We are well on the road to writing a good chapter on Africa’s best agricultural practices, and to shake off the humiliating and self-serving tag of being labelled the continent’s “basket case”.

This undeserved tag pasted on us by our detractors flew in the face of unavoidable disruptions which came with our historic Land Reform Programme, arguably among the largest in living memory, and of course in the face of the punitive sanctions slapped on us by the West as a result.

Achieving national food security

Today we are ready to shrug off this mischaracterisation, and to defy ruinous Western sanctions, thanks foremost to our hardworking people, and to the far-sighted post-Land Reform policies and programmes we have pursued under the Second Republic. As the Second Republic, we took a deliberate decision to end hunger and national food insecurity. This, we said we would achieve through the twin strategy of mechanising and modernising our Agriculture sector; and through climate-proofing our Agriculture by building more water bodies, followed through by modern irrigation systems.

Beating Three Fs, Three Cs

In Kigali, the focus was on Three Fs and Three Cs, themselves a summation of the food crisis afflicting the greater part of mankind, principally in Africa. The three Fs are: Food, Fuel and Fertilisers; the three Cs are Climate, Covid and Conflict. While many delegations bemoaned these afflictions, we in Zimbabwe had lessons to proffer, in place of sob tales.

Meeting our fertiliser needs

On the day of my departure for Rwanda, I had just commissioned a fertiliser blending factory, thus moving a major step towards eliminating the first F.

One of our leading companies, Zimplats, had also announced plans to manufacture sulphuric acid we need in the fertiliser industry. With these projects and a few more we have up our sleeve, Zimbabwe is well on the road to meeting all her fertiliser needs, even having some surplus to share with countries on our continent.

Drawing from our food reserves

Our food reserves are sound, regardless of the mid-season drought that hit us in the 2021/22 Agricultural Season. Our Strategic Grain Reserve Policy makes us ride through lean years. As, too, does our intensified investments in water and irrigation systems under the Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Programme. So far, 175 000 hectares are now irrigable under this rehabilitation programme, bringing the national total to 185 000 hectares. Our target is 350 000 hectares under irrigation, thus totally climate-proofing our Agriculture for all-season national food security.

We have kept affordable fuel flowing

In spite of the current broken international energy supply situation, we have been able to keep our Economy, including Agriculture, adequately fuelled. In fact, fuel prices have been coming down steadily, thus assuring us of durable economic growth, the global turbulence notwithstanding. We thus have taken care of the Three Fs which nag most economies on our continent and beyond.

Climate-proofing agriculture

I have already outlined how our water and irrigation programmes are gradually climate-proofing our Agricultural sector. We will not rest until we achieve our target of 350 000 hectares under irrigation, and until we have enough water bodies to underpin our Agriculture, province by province. In Zimbabwe, we reject as unscientific the view that some provinces, districts or communities are non-agricultural.

What we have had, which we must now overcome, are inadequate and/or inappropriate investments in certain needful areas.

Who would have ever imagined that wheat would grow and thrive on the Kalahari Sands of Bubi-Lupane, giving our nation handsome harvests? Or in Bikita traditionally known for rain deficits? With Tugwi-Mukosi now meeting water requirements for Chiredzi, we now plan to re-purpose waters of Lake Mutirikwi and Manjirenji Dam to create a greenbelt all the way to Birchenough. Our policy of leaving no one and no community behind will change fortunes for communities and for our Nation.

Defending African

interests at COP27

In Egypt, which hosts COP27 in a month’s time, we of Africa will pursue, project and defend our interests. We are not responsible for the climate crisis which now bedevil our planet, even though consequences of that planetary crisis have not spared us. For that reason, our development options should never be limited by those who ruined our planet, and thus should rightly bear the full costs of repairing it.

Covid-19 measures and food security

Our handling of Covid-19 was salutary; today, we can say we are past the hump, even though I continue to urge against complacency. The pandemic is still not fully defeated, and we must never lower our guard. Our carefully wrought balancing act made sure the needful Covid-19 measures were not pursued at the expense of Agriculture and national food security. That way, we tamed the second C which vexed many nations of the world.

Sterilising ourselves against shocks from conflicts

The conflict in Eastern Europe is for Europeans. It is not our war. We should never allow such faraway conflicts to import vulnerabilities into our own nations and economic systems. Our conflicts here in Africa never affect the West; they never lose sleep because conflicts, diseases or disasters have hit Africa. Similarly, our continent must sterilise itself against shocks triggered by faraway conflicts or adversities. That means building resilience here on our continent, at national, sub-regional and continental levels. We in Zimbabwe have thus largely escaped the ruinous Three Cs.

Our wheat farmers beat all odds

When conflict broke out in Eastern Europe, causing a serious breakdown in global supply systems, I made a special appeal to our farmers, especially those on irrigated land, to double their efforts in growing wheat for national sufficiency. We could no longer count on imports from Eastern Europe, a region already embroiled in war. I made the call at very short notice.

Yet our farmers rose to the occasion, mustering a response which is nothing short of miraculous. Today, I pay tribute to all our farmers; they worked extra hard in order to beat time and circumstances. The odds against them were heavy; yet we did it. Three cheers for our hardworking farmers!

A story of steady success

Figures bring out our enviable success story quite clearly. At the inception of the Second Republic, we managed to produce a mere 30 000 tonnes of wheat, barely enough to meet our national requirements for two months. In the 2019/2020 season, our wheat output rose to about 164 000 tonnes from about 44 000 hectares we put under cultivation. This was an improvement, but hardly closer to meeting even half of our national requirements.

We are on right path

In 2020/21 seasons, and after several initial remedial interventions, our wheat output rose to more than 337 000 tonnes, on about 67 000 hectares, itself quite a remarkable improvement from the previous year, but still short of our yearly national requirement of 360 000 tonnes. The pointers were clear: though still short, we were on the right path.

Meeting national wheat requirements

In the current 2021/2022 season, and after my plaintive call and the measures we adopted, our farmers put a staggering 80 000 hectares under wheat crop! We expect about 405 000 tonnes, against our original planned crop on 75 000 hectares which would have given us 380 000 tonnes. This means this year we will meet our national wheat demand, even enjoying a surplus of slightly over 40 000 tonnes which will go into our Strategic Wheat Reserves. We have successfully import-substituted, thus releasing precious foreign currency to other needy areas. Above all, we are set to deal a telling blow on food inflation, thus moving closer to stabilising our Economy.

Presidential inputs for wheat

I am overjoyed and quite confident that we will do even better next year, thus making our country a leading wheat producing nation. I now direct Government to include inputs for wheat under the Presidential Input Scheme to cover and support farmers in Region One and Two where wheat production under micro-irrigation projects are possible. These areas include Chimanimani, Chipinge and parts of Nyanga where our communal farmers have been producing the crop without direct Government assistance.

Harvesters for the wheat crop

Our AFC Leasing Company has mobilised 46 combine harvesters to assist farmers in harvesting this record wheat crop. That brings our national fleet to 170 combine harvesters. We have more equipment coming very soon, so we are adequately mechanised as an Agricultural Economy.

Whole-of-Government approach

I am happy the whole-of-Government approach saw beneficial synergies being achieved across Government departments: from energy and water supply right through to fighting quelea birds which destroy our wheat crop.

The hallmark of the Second Republic is converged effort on key result areas. That is what we mean by whole-of-Government approach. Indeed, the same formulae must be employed as we prepare for the summer season, which is already upon us.

Again, three cheers to our wheat farmers!

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