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Stakeholders in agriculture have applauded President Mugabe and the Government for sourcing farming implements worth $38 million from Brazil, but want ordinary people and not politicians to benefit.

The implements comprise of tractors, fertiliser spreaders and irrigation kits and are meant to help achieve targets under Zim-Asset’s Food Security and Nutrition cluster.

The implements were secured under a $98 million loan facility from the South American country’s More Food for Africa Programme.

Beneficiaries of the equipment under Phase One will be schemes for small holder farmers who benefited from the land reform programme.

Government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, launched a similar programme in 2007, but there were allegations that it mainly benefited politicians at the expense of ordinary farmers.

Farmers’ unions and agriculture experts said smallholder farmers, most of whom are beneficiaries of the land reform programme, should benefit as they lack financial resources to buy the implements.

Soya Bean Promotion Taskforce chairman Professor Sheunesu Mupepereki said: “We do not want the unproportional allocation of the equipment to officials in high positions, but rather the appropriate people must benefit from the scheme.

“It is a very important boost to productivity because one of the major challenges for farmers was access to necessary equipment where farmers end up failing to farm in time. Government through Agritex must, however, follow up and make sure that our farmers are given good aice on the technical side of farming, especially with the irrigation facilities so as to raise productivity.”

Agricultural economist Mr Peter Gambara said supporting smallholder farmers would boost food security in the country.

“Supporting smallholder farmers would ensure food security since they are the bulk of farmers for every crop, including tobacco, one of our cash crops,” he said.

Mr Gambara said if smallholder farmers had benefited from the first mechanisation programme, the move would have drastically changed the economy.

“If that first exercise had involved small holder farmers, it would have had a larger impact rather than giving it to individuals A2 farmers who actually failed to pay back the money,” he said.

“If we empower small holder farmers, then we are guaranteed of a sustainable agricultural sector.”

Women Farmers Association Trust president Mrs Dephina Nkomo thanked President Mugabe for launching the scheme.

“Women contribute more to farming, hence they should not be left out,” she said.

“That equipment should be given to people who deserve it and not what happened last time when only big wigs received machinery.”

Another agricultural economist Mr Elton Mudyazvivi said the machinery should be directed to performing sectors in agriculture.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union vice president Berean Mukwende also hailed the mechanisation programme.

“We thank President Mugabe for his efforts and farmers must not let him down,” he said.

“Irrigation facilities were long overdue since farmers now have to plant early because of climate change.

“However, irrigation can only be viable if Government reintroduces the reduction of tariffs for electricity for farmers who use irrigation.”

Source : The Herald