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Matabeleland farmers urged to embrace hybrid technologies

by Dumisani Nsingo
03 Jul 2016 at 06:42hrs | Views
THERE is need to equip farmers in Matabeleland region with the requisite knowledge and skills to improve their horticultural production and avert a situation whereby produce from other areas in the country and outside the border flood the market, an official has said.

Speaking on the second day of the four-day irrigation schemes staff training workshop for Bulawayo and Matabeleland North provincial Government department agricultural officers organised by the Prime Seedco on Tuesday last week, the company's deputy managing director, Mr Patrick Mutandwa said there was a need for farmers to embrace hybrid technologies so as to enhance their crop yield.

"The main objective of the workshop was to equip the farmers and to position ourselves as Prime Seedco. A point of worry is that Matabeleland has not been able to produce its own horticultural produce. Most horticultural produce in Matabeleland are coming outside the region. So as Prime Seedco we say look, there is an opportunity in Matabeleland hence we are equipping the farmers through Agritex (Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services) officers.

"As Prime Seedco we are saying we are well equipped in terms of technical expertise. Farmers need to know how to identify and manage pests in crops such as carrots and how do you eradicate them (pests). We are also here to educate farmers on hybrid technology. Many people talk of Open Pollinated Variety (OPV), hybrid has high level of disease tolerance and it reduces labour costs. A hybrid product has much longer shelve life whereas OPV takes eight days in the market," said Mr Mutandwa.

He said his company was supplying hybrid vegetables (cabbages, carrots, tomatoes), OPV vegetables and small grains, cereals and nuts such as sorghum, millet, groundnuts, sugar beans and maize, which best suit climatic conditions in Matabeleland region.

"Most farmers in Zimbabwe know of farming but they don't know of plants per hectare. We are also here to educate farmers on market intelligence since we are consulted by the high end market, supermarkets who buy most of our products. We are educating farmers on fertiliser application, irrigation and pest control.

"In terms of small grain, we are the biggest supplier since we specialise on sorghum, millet, sugar beans, groundnuts and OPV maize, sunflower and popcorn. Those who want to do hybrid maize here in Matabeleland can do 301 variety locally called tsuro or umvundla which can do well in Matabeleland," said Mr Mutandwa.

He said for the country to improve its food security there was need for various stakeholders and Government to invest in capacitating farmers financially and impacting them with requisite skills and knowledge to enhance production.

"For the country to be more secure in terms of food security, we need to consider if the farmers have the capacity, knowledge and skills. Our role as Prime Seedco is to sell seed that is applicable and to ensure farmers on farmer development and information dissemination. We have highly qualified agronomists across the country and in each province," Mr Mutandwa said.

He said Prime Seedco support the banning of imported horticultural produce as it enables farmers to improve on production as well as enhancing their agricultural enterprises' viability and profitability.

"In terms of horticulture we advocate for the country to extend their ban on horticultural produce. We have the farmers. If farmers are able to pocket a dollar, we will be talking of poverty alleviation," said Mr Mutandwa.

Speaking at the same occasion Minister of State and Provincial Affairs for Matabeleland North Ambassador Cain Mathema said it was high time farmers embrace farming as a business in order for them to realise profitability from their agricultural enterprises.

"One of the major challenges we face as Africans is failure to take farming as a business. There is need for a huge paradigm shift when it comes to that and turning around our economy. I know to move to that way of doing business is very painful for some.

"We always think of subsistence living because our colonial masters kicked us out of the best land both in terms of soils and minerals and put us into reserve land now known as communal areas and the role we were given was to work for the minority white," said Amb Mathema.

He said the country's colonisers were so cunning to the extent that they even denied blacks proper transport networks to market their crop produce as well as denying them adequate water sources for them to do effective agriculture.

"We (Government) want each homestead here in Matabeleland to have readily accessible water and each household to have at least two hectares for cropping and in that way we will definitely create an industrial revolution whereby we are going to have factories for value addition purposes.

"Our irrigation schemes are still pursuing the old system of farming, which was imposed by our colonial master whereby an individual villager was allocated small portions of land to farm. If we want to assist this country towards improving food security all the irrigation schemes should be turned into one management system," said Amb Mathema.

Prime Seedco is a company which was wholly acquired by Seedco Africa Limited. Prime Seedco is trading in five countries in Africa namely Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania. It is the only seed house in the country which boasts of a crop research institute.

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