Over 900 000 farmers have so far applied to participate in Government’s Command Agriculture programme, with Zesa pledging to ensure consistent electricity supplies to farming areas this season. Government wants 2 000 farmers to each produce at least 1 000 tonnes of grain annually, and will soon assess applications before production starts in October.Successful applicants will get seeds, fertilisers, chemicals and irrigation equipment to grow food for the nation; and 400 000 hectares of land have been earmarked for the initiative.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister Davis Marapira told The Sunday Mail, “So far, more than 900 000 applicants have made their submissions to all eight farming provinces, with the three Mashonaland provinces leading the pack.
“We have officers in all provinces to help us gather information for final selection in the next coming weeks. Government has left the programme wide open to make sure the process is done transparently, and that participants are chosen on merit and nothing else.
“All produce under this scheme is supposed to go to the Grain Marketing Board, nowhere else. Only surplus will be retained by the suppliers for personal use. Command Agriculture will ensure Zimbabwe becomes self-reliant in terms of food requirements.”
Zesa spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira told this publication that the power utility was committed to Command Agriculture.
“Since December 2015, (the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company) has managed to stabilise power supplies in the national power grid to maximise production of farmers under contract farming (command agriculture scheme) and farmers in general.
“Coupled with steady supplies of imports, those consumers won’t encounter inconveniences associated with loss of production time. We have always been engaging farmers to settle their debts using various methods like stop orders in the form of payment plans, input schemes, especially with tobacco farmers and contract farming where they also fund for reliable power supplies to maximise their output.”
Mr Gwasira added: “The power utility has always been engaging farmers on how they can manage their costs and at the same time maximising their output.
“ZETDC has also intensified demand side management. Energy efficiency measures for farmers to contain their tariffs have been put in place and all categories of farmers are still at an average peak tariff of USc9,06 per kilowatt hour slightly lower than the average price per kilowatt hour (of USc9,86).”
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa unveiled Government’s Command Agriculture on July 18, 2016 following last season’s drought.
Zimbabwe, like several other Sadc countries, had to rely on imports to supplement its meagre grain harvest.
The Zimbabwe Association of Pension Funds is expected to help raise US$348 million for Command Agriculture, while FBC Bank, Agribank, ZB Bank and the National Social Security Authority will also provide support.
Government bonds with prescribed asset status will soon be on the market to help finance the programme.
Under Command Agriculture, authorities are targeting production of two million tonnes of maize, and farmers will work under strict supervision.