$20 billion Pfumvudza war chest

More than three million households are being targeted for support under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa scheme after the Government released $20 billion as part of early preparations for the 2022-2023 summer cropping season. The Government had initially planned to grow the agriculture sector to US$8,2 billion by 2025 through the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy (AFSTS) launched by President Mnangagwa in 2020, but the target had already been achieved by last year. It has since been revised to US$10 billion for the same period. This year, Zimbabwe planted its best-ever wheat hectarage of over 77 000ha.

Chief director responsible for Agriculture Advisory Services in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Professor Obert Jiri told The Sunday Mail that the Government will cover an additional 520 000 families for cotton production also under conservation agriculture. “The Presidential Input Programme (Pfumvudza/Intwasa) will target three million farmers, up from last season’s 2,7 million in communal, A1, small-scale commercial farming, old resettlement and peri-urban farming sectors for cereals, oilseeds and legumes,” Prof Jiri said. #

The Government has already indicated its desire to ensure household and national food security at all costs, especially at a time when global food supply chains have been disrupted over the past two years by Covid-19 and lately the war in Ukraine. This year’s Pfumvudza/Intwasa scheme will have specific input packages for each ecological farming region. In the 2020-2021 cropping season, the programme contributed 43 percent of total maize production, while in the 2021-22 season, which was affected by a mid-season dry spell, the programme contributed 35 percent of total maize output.

According to Prof Jiri, the programme will this season support five plots (measuring 39 metres x 16 metres, which is equal to 0,0624 ha) per household. There will be input packages for maize, sorghum, pearl millet, soyabeans, sunflower, groundnuts, vegetables and African peas. The packages will include water retention enhancers, herbicides for three plots and fall armyworm control. “Farmers in Region 1 and 2 will get three mandatory maize plots, two optional plots comprising sunflower, sorghum, pearl millet, groundnuts, African peas and sugar beans.

Farmers in Region 3 will get two mandatory maize plots and sorghum or sunflower plot, three optional plots comprising sunflower, sorghum, pearl millet, groundnuts, African peas and sugar beans. “Farmers in Region 4 and 5 will get one mandatory sorghum plot, one millet plot and one sunflower plot. There will also be two optional plots comprising maize, African peas, groundnuts, sorghum and millet.” Success of the conservation agriculture programme, he said, would be anchored on sticking to set timelines, particularly early digging of planting holes. “The use of mulching to conserve moisture and superb and judicious weed control is important.

The programme was also assisted by timely availability and distribution of inputs, particularly seed and fertiliser.” Addressing board of directors and senior managers of parastatals under his ministry on Friday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the US$10 billion target is achievable. “In our AFSTS, we must ensure that it (the target) has been reviewed.

Later this year, in the mid-term review, we intend to lay a foundation to ensure that this sector is at least a US$10 billion sector by 2025. In fact, I am optimistic about the US$10-billion sector.” He said cropping had reached milestones that seemed impossible in the past. “We have achieved a record. Of the wheat hectarage that has been planted to date, 77 606 hectares had been planted by midnight (Friday), which is a record.

The last time we were in record territory was in 2004 when we achieved 70 585 hectares. I hope that this record planting will translate into a record volume of crops. We have collectively worked with the private sector and everyone else to ensure that this happens. That must form the basis and foundation of what we can do together.” He also said in line with ministerial performance contracts signed in February this year, Government has directed all parastatals to sign performance contracts aligned to the US$10 billion target.

Overall, AFSTS targets to increase incomes for farmers by 100 percent, create one million jobs, increase import substitution to 80 percent, including a 40 percent increase in both value addition and exports.

Intwasa farming secures food for war vets’ widows

THE Government-sponsored Pfumvudza/Intwasa farming model has paid off for widows of war veterans in Bulawayo after they secured food for their families using the climate-proof method. Pfumvudza/Intwasa is a concept aimed at climate-proofing agriculture by adopting conservation farming techniques and involves use of small plots and applying the correct agronomic practices for higher returns.

Riding on the success of the Government-funded scheme during the 2020/21 agriculture season, the programme continues to attract interest from many farmers in Bulawayo, mostly youths and women who did not participate last season The women grouped themselves and applied the conservation farming model at their farm in Nyamandlovu. They recently harvested sunflower, sugar beans and maize which they intend to deliver to the Grain Marketing Board.

The Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, designed for small-scale farmers, has benefited 2,3 million households in the communal, A1, small-scale commercial farming and old resettlement sectors to produce cereals, oilseeds and legumes in the forthcoming summer cropping season. Under the programme, each farming household will get an input package comprising 10 kg see maize, 5kg sorghum, 2kg pearl millet, 5kg soya bean, 2kg sunflower/castor bean (castor bean will be inter-cropped in the Pfumvudza crops for all crops) and 5kg sugar beans or 5kg cowpeas or round nuts.

Speaking during an interactive meeting with the farmers on Wednesday, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube commended the women for being diligent in working for their livelihood. She lauded them for deviating from the habit of relying on food handouts to feed their families. “We are gathered here to take pride in these women whose husbands played a key role in bringing what we enjoy as Zimbabwe today,” she said. “I am happy that they are not living off handouts but are taking advantage of Government projects to economically empower themselves, which is what is expected of every Zimbabwean,” said Minister Ncube.

‘Intwasa farming concept increased my yields’

BEAMING with joy, Mr Sofly Mthombeni (62) and his wife, Otilia (60) could not hide their excitement as they showed off their harvested maize at his homestead at Dundubala Resettlement area in Umguza District, Matabeleland North Province. Mr Mthombeni said they are expecting to deliver five tonnes of grain to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) out of 10 tonnes of maize harvested under the Government sponsored Intwasa/Pfumvudza Programme. 

For his farming efforts, Mr Mthombeni was voted the best farmer in his locality last week when he exhibited his crops under the maize and small grains category during the Redwood Zonal Agricultural Show, which was organised by Agritex. He walked away with two 5kg packs of maize seed, 2kg pack of small grains seed, a 20-litre bucket of molasses, bottles of herbicides and fungicides, a plough, a knapsack sprayer and gumboots. A Chronicle news crew visited Mr Mthombeni’s plot and he shared his success story.

Through farming, Mr Mthombeni said he managed to build his herd of cattle, starting off with five beasts and today he has 34. From the farming proceeds, Mr Mthombeni bought a truck and built a three-bedroomed house. “Farming is business to me and I eke out a living through farming and I sell my produce to the GMB. Through farming I managed to buy five beasts after selling maize to GMB and they have been multiplying over time,” he said. “I also bought a truck, which I am using to carry stockfeed and delivering my produce. I also built a three-bedroomed house using proceeds from farming.”

When Government introduced the new farming concept in 2020, Mr Mthombeni who used to rely on oxen for draught power, was initially pessimistic. It took a countless number of visits to his home by Agritex officers to try and convince him to adopt the Intwasa farming model. Mr Mthombeni has become a role model in his neighbourhood. He has made a great difference by emerging as a highly successful farmer who recorded a bumper harvest of maize despite the prolonged dry spell in February that affected most farmers across the country.

When Government introduced Intwasa in March 2020, the aim was to maximise productivity per unit area, even during drought periods. Intwasa involves the utilisation of small pieces of land and applying the correct agronomic practices for higher returns. The approach can be used in areas receiving marginal rainfall and still give high yields. According to agriculture experts, Intwasa ensures food self-sufficiency. An average family of four to six requires a bucket of maize every week and with Intwasa they can produce food to last them a whole year on a small piece of land.

With the Intwasa concept, a farmer can also irrigate crops using a bucket and get a bumper harvest as opposed to planting maize on a large area without adequate resources and end up getting one bucket or less per hectare “I started farming in 2008 after securing land under the Land Reform Programme. In my first year, I didn’t harvest much, but in the subsequent years, I have been recording bumper harvests and delivering surplus grain to GMB,” said Mr Mthombeni.

He said the highest quantity of grain that he has so far delivered to GMB was 10 tonnes during the 2019/2020 farming season. “This year, just like other farmers in most parts of the country, I was affected by drought and will only be able to deliver half of what I delivered to GMB in the previous season,” he said. Mr Mthombeni has managed to perfect the art of conservation agriculture after receiving support and extensive training from Agritex officers who have been working with farmers in Umguza district to increase the uptake of conservation agriculture.

“Agricultural extension officers have been training us on Intwasa and I have actually perfected my skills. “With Intwasa you don’t need expensive fertilisers and other inputs as conservation agriculture uses local resources to boost yields,” he said. “As a farmer, I have embraced Intwasa or Pfumvudza farming concept because it increases yields while protecting fields from erosion, improving soil quality and mitigating the effects of drought. “I planted early and adequately prepared my land, which is why I managed to salvage something meaningful in the fields despite the erratic rains last season.”

#From his bumper harvest, Mr Mthombeni said he will donate part of the maize to his relatives who were affected by drought. Mr Mthombeni attributed his success to his wife. “My wife is my pillar of strength when it comes to farming and she has been supportive throughout. “Everything that you are seeing is because of her support and hard work,” he said.

Farmers get paid for grain deliveries to GMB

GOVERNMENT has paid US$2 million and $748 million to farmers who have delivered grain to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) while paying school fees for 560 000 learners for vulnerable learners. The country remains food secure with stocks of 20 626 metric tons (MT) while grain millers have concluded import contracts of 400 000mt with Malawi and Zambia.

Briefing journalists during a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, said grain valued ZW$1,8 billion and US$2,12 million has been delivered so far. “The nation is further informed that it is anticipated that deliveries will peak around July to September, before declining in November. The grain millers have concluded import contracts of 400 000 MT from Malawi and Zambia. It has been indicated that Social Welfare will require 30 000 MT every month,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She also said Cabinet received and adopted the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) 2022 Rural Livelihoods Assessment Report, which spells out several Government interventions to the less privileged. The report shows Government interventions on education, social protection, agriculture production, livestock, irrigation infrastructure, household income, child nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (wash), loans, household consumption patterns, food security, youth, development issues and shocks.

The minister said through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), the Government has paid school fees for more than half a million learners in line with its policy that education should be accessible for all. This year the country recorded a seven percent increase in the number of pupils attending school. “In education, 83,8 percent of school-going children were in school compared to the 77 percent recorded in 2021. Government assisted 560 000 learners through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), and reiterates its standing policy that no learner should be turned away for non-payment of school fees,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She said the Government also continues to support the vulnerable through provision of food aid and food subsidies while also providing others with cash transfers as well as medical treatment orders. Minister Mutsvangwa said the removal of restrictions on food importation on products such as maize and wheat, cooking oil, among other basic commodities, is part of Government efforts to cushion citizens from drought. “Under social protection, 61 percent of rural households received some form of support, with Government accounting for 67 percent of the support rendered,” said Minister Mutsvangwa. She said the report also noted that there has been an improvement in household food security situation, improved dietary following various measures employed by Government.

“The proportion of households in the acceptable category also increased from 29 percent in 2021 to 35 percent in 2022. Government has instituted programmes to address the country’s dietary situation, notably the Agriculture and Food Systems Strategy, which has, as one of its components, the establishment of a village and agribusiness hub garden,” she said. Minister Mutsvangwa said the Government is also rehabilitating several irrigation schemes across the country to improve national food security. A total of 394 irrigation schemes have been established in the various districts with 51 percent of them fully functional, 28 percent partly operational and 21 percent yet to operate.

“These include the National Accelerated Rehabilitation and Development Programme targeting the rehabilitation and development of at least 200 hectares in every district annually over a ten-year period,” she said. “To date, 216 000 hectares including plantations are under irrigation of which 116 000 hectares are for cropping. The Government intends to increase the hectarage for cropping from 116 000 hectares to 350 000 hectares,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

US$90 per tonne incentive for grain delivery

Farmers who deliver maize and traditional grains to the Grain Marketing Board before the end of next month, will now get an extra US$90 a tonne over and above the $75 000 a tonne producer prices set recently for all four summer grains, with the same US$90 a tonne incentive given for deliveries of the pricier sunflower and soya beans.

The Cabinet agreed to the extra incentive bonus yesterday, which will be backdated to the beginning of April when the marketing season opened so farmers who have already delivered will the getting the extra. The bonus is an incentive for farmers to push their harvesting, drying and delivery timelines. Government yesterday described the package and pricing as the most competitive in the region.

The announcement was made after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting by Information Communication and Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere who was standing in for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa. The measures to reward the most efficient farmers were tabled before Cabinet by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Anxious Masuka.

Zimbabwe started the new marketing season with large carryover stocks from last season. On April 1 when the GMB was ready to take deliveries from the new harvest there were stocks of 453 717 tonnes carried over from the previous season as a strategic grain reserve. Cabinet also approved a review of the price of maize to ensure farmers’ viability. Dr Muswere said Cabinet resolved that cotton will now be treated as an export crop, just like tobacco, with prices being determined by fair pricing based on international lint prices. “This should motivate growers to produce more in the coming seasons,” he said.

He also gave a status report on wheat and tobacco and tobacco sales so far. Commenting on the producer price structure, Dr Masuka said the $75 000 a tonne paid for maize, sorghum, millet and rapoko, coupled with the US$90 incentive adds up to the equivalent of US$350, a figure he said was competitive. “If you look at the import parity price for maize and if you look at this price framework, this is a very lucrative arrangement for farmers. It is giving them the equivalent of US$350 which is comparable if not better than anywhere else in the region. Farmers should take advantage of this generous offer from Government,” said Dr Masuka.

Soya farmers are paid $171 495 a tonne and sunflower farmers $205 794,52 a tonne according to the GMB website and they will now be getting the extra US$90 a tonne if they deliver early. Fertiliser will now be sold in foreign currency in an open market since some components are imported but those accessing it using the Government schemes, the majority, would pay in local currency. Reacting to the incentive, one farmer organisations, the Zimbabwe Women Farmers Trust, has welcomed the incentive, saying it will encourage them to deliver their crops early. #

Zimbabwe Women Farmers Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo told The Herald last night that the “incentive is welcome”. “I think it is a good way of promoting the early delivery of maize to the GMB. We commend the Government for this but we recommend that this incentive should be offered every year from now, so that farmers know that when they deliver their crops early, they will get an incentive,” said Mrs Nkomo. Meanwhile, commenting on why the Government was not fully dollarizing, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube said there were a number of challenges, some very serious, that would arise if this was done including the destruction of the banking sector and local industry will no longer be competitive and will be cut back sharply.

The last time Zimbabwe went for dollarization many factories closed or cut back on production and staff as imports took over. “This is what will happen on day one if you adopt the United States dollar as the only currency, something nasty is going to happen. “Four things as a minimum will happen. You will wipe out the entire banking sector. Because you need to convert their Zimbabwe dollar balances into US dollars, banks will have negative balances. You will have a crisis; you will have no banking sector. “Secondly, very quickly you will have a cash crisis because you cannot print US dollars and there will be a divisibility problem; the small denomination notes will be in short supply and you will start to have cash queues in the banking sector,” said Prof Ncube.

“The advantage of having a domestic currency circulating with US dollar is we will have to manage the cash crisis. We have been through this before. If you remember we had to create something called the bond notes but that was before I arrived, in order to deal with some of the cash crisis,” he said. He said the economy, particularly the manufacturing sector will lose its competitiveness if the domestic currency is done away with. “Also you will do away with the monetary policy. You need both fiscal and monetary policy or you will be walking with one leg. So something nasty will happen if you just use the United States dollar,” said Prof Ncube. On constant fuel price increases, Prof Ncube said the situation would be worse if the country was not blending with ethanol.