The registration of farmers willing to participate in the $500 million command agriculture scheme has begun, with Government yesterday inviting those interested to register with Agritex officers in their respective areas.
Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet (responsible for implementation, monitoring and evaluation) Mr Justin Mupamhanga yesterday said work was in progress on the scheme that sought to ensure maize self-sufficiency this year.The programme, which aims to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares of land, will see identified farmers being given inputs, irrigation and mechanised equipment.
"Registration of farmers as we speak is in progress at all Agritex offices countrywide," Mr Mupamhanga said.
"As we pronounce this programme, we are communicating to all farmers so that they start taking part in the programme. Information and registration on contract farming starting 2016-2017 summer season can be obtained from the nearest Agritex offices.
"Further details can be obtained from the command centre on telephone number 04-792447. The programme will support with, where required, production inputs like fertilisers, seed and agrochemicals on a cost recovery basis." The farmers, to work under strict supervision, will be required to commit five tonnes per hectare to Government as repayment for the inputs and agricultural equipment.
They will retain all surplus produced for personal use.
Mr Mupamhanga added: "All farmers with potential to produce above five tonnes per hectare are being targeted. Government is embarking on this special programme on contract maize production to guarantee food security. Farmers that are targeted to participate in the programme are those with irrigation infrastructure, potential irrigable areas and maize producers on dry land both large and small scale farmers."
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who chairs the Cabinet Committee on Food Security and Nutrition, recently said Cabinet had tasked the Ministries of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development and Environment, Water and Climate to identify farms, farmers and water bodies for the implementation of the command agriculture initiative.
He said of the 400 000 hectares targeted, at least half of that would be irrigated land. VP Mnangagwa said Government was negotiating lines of credit with various financial institutions to fund the programme. At least 2 000 farmers are expected to participate in the scheme and will sign a performance contract for three consecutive growing seasons.
Government's decision to embark on command agriculture was necessitated by the rise in national food insecurity from about 12 percent in 2011 to 42 percent this year.
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Report says four million people need food aid this year because of an El-Nino-induced drought. Other Government programmes such as the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme will remain in place to complement the command agriculture.