With preparations for the 2019/2020 cropping season at an advanced stage, Matabeleland farmers are shying away from the government-sponsored Command Agriculture, aimed at boosting crop yields, CITE has established.
In the past seasons, Command Agriculture funding has been abused by beneficiaries.
However, the year President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said only deserving farmers with a proven track record of delivering grain to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) would be funded.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) executive member, Irene Maphenduka, told CITE many farmers in the region were avoiding Command Agriculture, citing low rainfall that Matabeleland usually receives.
The Meteorological Services Department has already predicted normal to above normal rainfall during the first half of the cropping season running from October to December 2019.
However, during the second half of the season – January to March 2020 – normal to below normal rains are expected.
“All I can say is that three quarters of farmers here in Matabeleland, are not part of Command Agriculture and the reason is the little rains that we usually receive,” Maphenduka told CITE.
“We do not have enough water to irrigate our crops should there be a dry spell. We cannot now afford to risk with Command Agriculture funds because we might not be in a position to deliver or pay back the money.”
She said Matabeleland requires more dams and boreholes to sustain irrigation schemes, adding without that only very few farmers in the green belt of Umguza will participate in Command Agriculture.
“I personally had registered for Command Agriculture but had to later withdraw because of water challenges in my farm,” said Maphenduka. My borehole developed a problem and when I tried to drill another, it never worked, so I withdrew.”
Another farmer, Earnest Ndlovu, a member of Matabeleland Agricultural Business Chamber, also confirmed there was low uptake of Command Agriculture in the region.
“Very few of our members have been part of the scheme. There is low rainfall this side so Command Agriculture becomes something risky,” said Ndlovu.
Meanwhile, preparations for the farming season in the region are in disarray with farmers facing input challenges dashing all the hopes of a bumper harvest.
The farmers who spoke to CITE said their challenges range from high seed prices, fuel shortages, tractors among other related factors.