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Mbeki urges African leaders to assist Zim with farming inputs
Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2008

September 16, 2008
The Herald

SOUTH AFRICAN President Thabo Mbeki yesterday urged African leaders to urgently assist Zimbabwe with sufficient farming inputs and inject life into the country's agricultural production ahead of the 2008/09 summer cropping season as Government announced the distribution of inputs for the season.

Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe's economy.

Mr Mbeki said all African leaders should lead by example and demonstrate their solidarity with Zimbabwe and help the country out of its economic challenges.

He said African leaders were capable of dealing with problems besetting the continent.

President Mbeki said rains were around the corner and Zimbabwe was in dire need of farming implements.

"The rains are about to start, so the time to put the seeds in the soil is very close, but we must get the seeds, we must get the fertilizer, we must get the fuel, we must get the implements as a matter of urgency. I am quite certain as a region and a continent we can do that," said President Mbeki in his closing remarks after the signing of Zimbabwe's power-sharing deal.

"We have a responsibility to do that and demonstrate that we are capable as a continent to take care of our problems. This is one entry to make as a matter of urgency."

Announcing the conclusion of the inter-party dialogue last Thursday, President Mbeki said he had discussed the issue of food security with President Mugabe, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and Professor Arthur Mutambara.

He said it was imperative for the leaders to work to ensure that production on the land was stepped up so that food shortages do not recur.

In a statement yesterday, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, who is also chairman of the Resource Mobilisation and Utilisation Committee for the 2008/9 Agricultural Summer Season, said Government had embarked on a programme to enhance food security at the household and national level for the coming summer cropping season.

"Full-scale mobilisation of A1, A2, communal, individual and institutional farmers as well as vulnerable groups for the programme, is in full swing.

"With indications from the Meteorological Department pointing to a good season in terms of the rainfall distribution pattern, efforts have to be focused on boosting the country's state of preparedness for the cropping season," he said.

He, however, said the support by Government was meant to complement and not to substitute the farmers' initiatives.

He said other programmes such as the Targeted Farmers Programme, Vulnerable Social Groups Programme and Individual Efforts by the Generality of Zimbabwean Farmers would run concurrently with the distribution exercise.

In the Targeted Farmers Programme, 500 000 hectares will be put under maize production, with a commitment to deliver all the produce to the Grain Marketing Board.

"Farmers for this programme are in the process of being identified, while contract forms will soon be availed to the farmers by the Ministry of Agriculture," he said.

Dr Sibanda encouraged farmers to urgently complete forms, to facilitate the provision of inputs support and monitoring by Agritex, District Development Fund and his committee with the expected yield under the programme expected to be five tonnes per hectare.

The Vulnerable Social Groups Programme, Dr Sibanda said, is targeting disadvantaged members of society in every province.

"Beneficiaries under this programme are being identified by the provincial and district structures of the Department of Social Welfare and will each get 10kg seed maize or small grains seed pack, 50kg of compound D and 50kg of ammonium nitrate (fertilizers).

"Distribution of the inputs will commence as soon as the list of the beneficiaries is in place. That target is for this group of farmers to produce a combined 200 000 tonnes at an average yield of 0.5 tonnes per hectare."

Dr Sibanda said inputs would be acquired from traditional distribution outlets using individual resources in the Individual Efforts by the Generality of Zimbabwean Farmers programme.

He said distribution of inputs has started, with trains and trucks already moving consignments to provincial GMB depots and to individual farming communities.

"Farmers under the targeted programme with their own transport or means should arrange to pick up the inputs from their local depots. Government will, as in previous seasons, provide farmers with fuel for the summer cropping season."

Dr Sibanda said the Resource Mobilisation and Utilisation Committee will monitor the uplifting of the fuel and its utilisation by the farmer.

"It should also be noted that fuel for targeted farmers will be distributed to identified areas within the farming clusters for easy of access, to reduce on transport costs or other logistical challenges," he said.

The fuel will be distributed directly to A1 and A2 farmers and farmers without tillage services, including communal farmers, can access the services from DDF and Arda as well as any other service providers, Dr Sibanda said.

He said other farmers not benefiting from the programmes would access the inputs and fuel through traditional outlets.

"Government, in liaison with relevant stakeholders, is working round the clock to ensure the timeous availability of adequate amounts of inputs in the market and that these are distributed to all farmers equitably," he said.

He requested banks to commence the processing of loan applications by individual farmers, adding the Reserve Bank would unveil more details on this issue.

Dr Sibanda said farmers with their own tillage facilities and fuel should proceed immediately with land preparedness and those with functional irrigation facilities should immediately start planting.

"Ideally, the entire planting programme should have been concluded by November 30 while farmers with seed and fertilizers left over from the previous season should use them as intended," he said.

Dr Sibanda urged farmers still holding their small grain stocks to grow them, expressing concern at the insufficient quantities available in the country.

"Accordingly, Government has put in place arrangements to import additional seed to bridge the deficit. Farmers in the relevant agro-ecological regions of the country will be notified on the distribution thereof once the consignment has been received," he said.

He said steps are being taken to adequately capacitate Agritex and DDF officers in accordance with the agreed conceptual framework, so as to enable them to effectively monitor the whole farming process in the districts, from inputs support distribution to harvesting and collection of produce.

"This will be complemented by measures to be taken to counter the abuse of inputs supplies, especially seed, fuel and fertilizers," he said.

Dr Sibanda said Government would deal firmly with corrupt persons who are in the habit of using their political and social influence to abuse agricultural inputs thereby prejudicing the agricultural production programme.

"Notwithstanding the challenges being confronted, with sufficient willpower and the unity of purpose by all stakeholders, the goal to ensure food security at the national and household level can be achieved."

In terms of the power-sharing deal signed yesterday by President Mugabe and the leaders of the two MDC formations, Mr Tsvangirai and Prof Mutambara, they agreed to stabilise the economy and ensure its growth.

"The parties agree to give priority to the restoration of economic stability and growth in Zimbabwe.

"The Government will lead the process of developing and implementing an economic recovery strategy plan," read article III of the agreement.

To that end, the parties expressed commitment to working together on a full and comprehensive economic programme to resuscitate the country's economy, which would urgently address the issues of production, food security, poverty and unemployment and the challenges of high inflation, interest rates and exchange rates, among other things.

The parties also unequivocally pledged that humanitarian and food assistance was paramount to the sanctity of human life.

The parties agreed that every Zimbabwean regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation and religion is entitled to humanitarian and food assistance from Government.

"It is the primary responsibility of the State to ensure that every Zimbabwean who needs humanitarian and food assistance receives it."

To complement Government's efforts to feed the nation, non-governmental organisations involved in humanitarian and food assistance are allowed to provide food without discrimination.

However, in the exercise of their work the NGOs are not allowed to promote the interests of any political party.

In terms of the agreement, NGOs rendering humanitarian and food assistance should operate within the confines of the laws of Zimbabwe.

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