Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
About 300 000 small-scale farmers countrywide are set to benefit from the Presidential Well Wishers Input Scheme in the 2015-2016 farming season, which will begin in the next few weeks.
The scheme, which targets the elderly and orphans, seeks to increase yields and improve food security in line with the 10-Point Plan enunciated by President Mugabe during his recent State of the Nation Address.
The 10-Point Plan, which is anchored on Zim-Asset, identifies the revitalisation of agriculture and the agro-processing value chain as integral to economic turnaround. Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for crops Cde Davis Marapira told The Herald yesterday that Government had set aside $28 million for the scheme.
He said distribution of the inputs would start before the end of next month. “The scheme is targeting to benefit 300 000 small-scale farmers and will benefit almost everyone who is in need. But we are saying those who have potential should buy their own inputs,” said Cde Marapira.
“We are expecting distribution of the inputs to start by the end of October to early November.” Cde Marapira said he was hopeful that all deserving people would access the inputs on time. The rescue package comes at an opportune time as preparations for the summer cropping season have begun.
Farmers applauded Government’s consistence in assisting vulnerable groups during the past farming seasons. They appealed for a reduction of prices of inputs which they said were beyond the reach of many.
Said Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa: “It is important for Government to help the vulnerable in our midst. All able-bodied farmers should buy their own inputs. “The spirit of buying is good because it also enhances the commitment that the farmers attach to their farming activities.
“However, we also appeal to Government to subsidise these inputs because current prices are beyond the reach of many farmers. Our produce is now for the international market and the prices of our inputs should be reflective of that,” he said.
“Fertiliser companies have promised to slash prices by 20 percent and we are just hoping that they match their words.” Mr Chabikwa said they were also hopeful that money for maize delivered to the Grain Marketing Board during the 2014-2015 farming season would be released early as promised by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made.
He said the money would go a long way in assisting farmers in their operations. Preparations for the 2015-16 have already started although on a slow pace due a number of challenges. Most farmers are finding the going tough due to challenges caused by illegal sanctions imposed by the West, which have taken a toll on their operations.
Although Government has waived duty on fertilizer imports, farmers are still unable to purchase the input as they are yet to receive their payments from the GMB for grain delivered last season.
At least $15 million was recently released to pay farmers, but the payments are coming in drips and drabs, thereby compromising the whole farming planning process.
Weather forecasts released last week showed that the country was likely to receive normal to below normal rainfall for the 2015-16 season, with farmers being advised to plant small grains, short season varieties and stagger planting to spread the risk.
To avoid potentially devastating food insecurity in the country, the Meteorological Services Department implored Government to prioritise cloud seeding, farmers with irrigation facilities to utilise them than rely unduly on dry land farming, and to practise conservation farming.