EDITORIAL COMMENT: Young farmers must take up the challenge

The Sunday News

THE World Food Programme says the agricultural sector is at the heart of the economies of the least-developed countries (LDCs). 

The organisation argued that agriculture accounts for a large share of gross domestic product (GDP) ranging from 30 to 60 percent in about two-thirds of such countries, employs a large proportion of the labour force (from 40 percent to as much as 90 percent in most cases), represents a major source of foreign exchange (from 25 percent to as much as 95 percent in three-quarters of the countries), supplies the bulk of basic food and provides subsistence and other income to more than half of the LDCs’ population. 

In addition, the strong forward and backward linkages within the rural sector and with other sectors of the economy provide added stimulus for growth and income generation.  Zimbabwe’s economy is also heavily dependent on agriculture, with the majority of the population living in rural areas and relying on subsistence farming. It is behind that background that the Government’s Transitional Stabilisation Programme puts emphasis on the need to revive the agricultural sector. 

“With respect to agriculture, the Programme presents quick-win investment opportunities for realisation of self-sufficiency and food surpluses that will see the re-emergence of Zimbabwe as a major contributor to agricultural production and regional food security in the Southern African region and beyond.

“The Transitional Stabilisation Programme envisages greater involvement of the domestic financial system in underpinning the financing of agriculture. With regards to livestock, the Programme contains measures supportive of full recovery, in terms of the size and quality of the national herd, with accompanying benefits for improved supply along the livestock value chain, and ultimately meeting national requirements, as well as those of the export markets.”

In addition, the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services announced last week that Government has established an Agriculture Youth Desk to assist young farmers throughout the country with expertise and technical information to modern farming methods. All these efforts are meant to capacitate farmers and ensure that they produce enough to feed the nation and oil the wheels of the economy.

The participation of youths in the sector is also vital, and last week, President Mnangagwa said Government will continue to be alive to the unique needs of young farmers such as technical expertise, extension services, agro financing and identification and penetration of markets. 

He was speaking at the National Young Champion Farmers Awards ceremony in Harare.

“I exhort the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement to work with various stakeholders to facilitate the entry of more young farmers into horticulture, animal husbandry and agroforestry sub-sectors as well as the value addition and beneficiation of all agriculture produce. 

“I call for greater accommodation of the young farmers into programmes such as the Command Agriculture Programme and the Presidential Inputs Scheme. Mechanisation and Irrigation Development programmes should also favourably support this young generation of farmers.”

The President also urged the youths to adopt smart agriculture practices, traditional crops and new seed varieties to increase yields and quality of produce per unit area.