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Government has challenged stakeholders in the agricultural industry to assist smallholder farmers to boost productivity.

Higher productivity in the smallholder sector is expected to ensure national food security and nutrition and boost economic growth.

The call was made by Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for crop production and mechanisation, Cde Davis Marapira at the closing ceremony of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED) workshop at Tshongokwe Irrigation Scheme in Lupane.

Cde Marapira said smallholder farmers contributed immensely to agricultural production although they did not have enough resources.

“Local and international studies have shown that smallholder farmers contribute immensely to agricultural production, yet they are the least equipped and face a lot of challenges to commercialise their activities,” he said.

“Smallholder farmers are usually faced with lower yields not because of lack of vast fields for larger production, but because they have less access to technical knowledge, markets, credit facilities and inputs such as fertilizers and improved seeds.

“Addressing these disparities is central to moving towards food security, improved nutrition, increased rural incomes and economic growth in Zimbabwe.”

Cde Marapira urged local and international companies to assist in funding the agricultural sector and help farmers with market research.

He said corporate funding and investment in market research by local and international companies would boost productivity by smallholder farmers.

“I call upon smallholder farmers to participate in contract farming and be faithful to contractual obligations and repaying loans for financiers to continue assisting the sector,” said Cde Marapira.

He applauded Zim-AIED for its efforts in improving the livelihoods of rural communities, especially women.

“Zim-AIED has assisted more than 140 000 smallholder farmers, 50 percent of whom are women,” he said. “Zim- AIED promoted good agricultural practices and business practices, expanded access to finance and linkages to input suppliers and buyers.”

Cde Marapira said increasing income, food security and employment through agriculture production remained one of Zimbabwe’s key focal areas under the ZimAsset economic blueprint. United States ambassador Mr Bruce Wharton said beneficiaries of the programme sold crops and livestock valued at over $210 million.

A beneficiary of the Zim-AIED programme, who is also a member of the Tshongokwe Irrigation Scheme, Mrs Mervis Ncube of Ngombane Village in Lupane, said the irrigation facilities had made a positive impact on her life.

Source : The Herald