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Smallholder farmers have the potential to increase maize yields if given the necessary support, Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda has said.

Officiating at the Third General Assembly of the Korea-Africa Food and Agriculture Co-operation Initiative in Harare yesterday, Dr Sibanda said with the right inputs and good agricultural practices, productivity at household level can be increased thereby reducing the threat of food insecurity.

He said the enhancement of national agricultural extension services in the growing of grains would boost yields and improve household and national food security.

He applauded the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre’s KAFACI projects aimed at boosting agricultural productivity.

“It is pleasing to note that in the last agricultural season, the SIRDC working within the framework of KAFACI, undertook small-scale farming of maize and soyabeans production on a pilot basis.

“The project utilised the Enhancement of National Agricultural Extension Services programme in the growing of maize and soyabeans in Hwedza. It demonstrated that smallholder farmers’ maize yields can be improved from 0,85 tonnes to four tonnes per hectare,” he said.

Dr Sibanda said the KAFACI initiative was welcome in Africa particularly in Zimbabwe where it came at the wake of Zim-Asset.

“The major component of the Zim-sset focuses on development of food and nutrition security. As we implement our programme, we have harnessed the support of our research and development institutions as well as institutions of higher learning.

“SIRDC, in particular, has been given a central role as the technical aiser to the Office of the President and Cabinet as we co-ordinate the implementation and supervision of Zim-Asset,” he said.

He also applauded SIRDC for initiating the production of a high-yielding maize variety, Sirda maize 113, a drought-tolerant variety that is suitable for marginal areas.

“I want to express our gratitude for the initiative of South Korea, through KAFACI for supporting Zimbabwe and indeed Africa at large, by contributing to agricultural production to guarantee self-sufficiency in food supplies, more so in light of the recurrent devastating effects of climatic change.

Korea deputy administrator Rural Development Administration Dr Ra Seung-yong said climate change was affecting yields and farmers should use the latest technology to reduce the negative effects of the phenomenon,”to improve yields, farmers to develop and embrace new varieties and technology to maintain productivity through the use of improved varieties and technology”.

SIRDC chief executive Dr Robson Mafoti, who is also the incoming KAFACI chairman, said there has been shuttling of research scientists and engineers between SIRDC and the Rural Development Administration of South Korea.

To date several SIRDC scientists and engineers have attended capacity building programmes in various specialist agricultural disciplines in South Korea.

“SIRDC is implementing a number of projects funded under the KAFACI framework. SIRDC has also adapted mechanisation of the planting, harvesting and processing equipment for soyabean production by small-scale farmers to increase yields and national food security,” he said.

The general assembly, which ends today, is being attended by delegates from 17 member countries including Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo among other member states.

Since its inception in July 2010, KAFACI has initiated important agricultural programmes that are central to the development of agriculture in Africa that include capacity building for scientists, engineers and artisans in modern agricultural technologies, development, improvement and dissemination of high-yielding crop varieties, artificial insemination training and access to better livestock breeds among others.

There are also new projects that include capacity building on molecular breeding for the development of South to South co-operation model, development of technology on conservation of genetic resources and development of application of post-harvest management technology model for horticultural crops.

Source : The Herald