FARMERS in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces are geared for the 2023/24 summer cropping season following the distribution of inputs under the Government-supported Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme.
Government has increased traditional grain and maize production with inputs for the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme being distributed according to agro-ecological zones to ensure optimised production for every natural region.
Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme hinges on three principles namely crop rotation, mulching and minimum tillage which are aimed at boosting yields and increasing resilience to the effects of climate change.
The Zunde RaMambo/Isiphala seNkosi Scheme will support 10 plots for each chief, seven plots for each headman and five plots each for each village head.
This summer, the country is targeting to plant 2 million hectares of maize and 0,7 million hectares of traditional grains. Government targeting a cereal production of 3,7 million tonnes to ensure national food and nutrition security.
This year, the programme will support five Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots per household with an agro-ecological region-specific crop input package for maize, sorghum, pearl millet, soya beans, sunflower, groundnuts, vegetables and African peas.
Matabeleland North’s acting director for Agricultural Rural Development and Advisory Services, Mr Dumisani Nyoni said a programme to educate farmers on weather patterns and required farming mechanisms is underway with about 135 000 farmers having been trained so far.
He said the inputs distribution programme in the province was launched last week and they are targeting 190 000 beneficiaries under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme.
Mr Nyoni urged farmers to start preparing planting holes or ripper rows. He said due to a low rainfall pattern in the region, farmers should go for drought-resistant and early-maturity varieties. “As regions 4 and 5, it is important for farmers to be guided by the weather forecast as we traditionally get low rainfall. In Binga, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Bubi, Umguza and Nkayi, the soils are acidic and farmers should go and get lime from GMB and apply in holes,” he said.
“Farmers should also start preparing mulch for their plots and plant millet and sorghum which are drought resistant. As a ministry, we encourage village farmer field schools where farmers gather to learn until the season ends, and we have trained 135 000, targeting 190 000 beneficiaries under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme.”
Mr Nyoni said lime has since been distributed while measures are being put in place for the distribution of other inputs.
He urged farmers to grow short-season varieties and also drought-resistant crops such as sunflower, cowpeas, groundnuts and others.
Those in Lusulu in Binga, and parts of Lupane and Nkayi bordering Binga can grow maize while other parts are encouraged to use drought-resistant small grains.
Mr Nyoni urged farmers to also ensure their livestock has enough water and supplementary feeding.
In the Midlands province, nearly one million farmers have been trained and started holing their plots under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa scheme with the distribution of farming inputs having already started.
Midlands provincial agronomist, Mr Innocent Dzuke said inputs distribution started last week with a number of farmers collecting the farming inputs at GMB depots.
“Nearly a million farmers in the province have been trained on Pfumvudza/ Intwasa ahead of the summer cropping season. Some farmers are already potholing and by the end of October they should have finished Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots,” he said.
Mr Dzuke said last year, a total of 1 070 025 farmers received Pfumvudza/Intwasa training and subsequently potholed their fields.
“This year the target is 1 125 009 farmers. So training including potholing is ongoing across the province,” he said.
Mr Dzuke urged farmers to grow crops depending on the agro-ecological map.
Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Owen Ncube is launching the Pfumvudza/Intwasa input distribution programme in the province district-by-district.
He has since covered Zvishavane, Gweru, and Gokwe South districts among others.
The launches are coming at a time when Government is implementing the rural industrialisation strategy, with community-based projects that leverage the local climate to ensure food and nutritional security.
Minister Ncube urged villagers to adopt various mitigatory measures to protect their crops and livestock from the predicted El-Nino-induced drought this summer.
Weather experts have predicted that most parts of the country will receive normal to below-normal rainfall due to the El Nino effects with southern parts of the country expected to receive the lowest rains.
According to the 2023/2024 rainfall season forecast report, the bulk of Matabeleland North, parts of Midlands covering Gokwe North and South districts, and parts of Matabeleland South province covering Bulilima District are expected to receive below-normal-to-normal rainfall.
Normal rainfall with a bias towards below-normal rainfall is highly likely for the remaining provinces for the sub-season October-November-December 2023.
“I have committed myself to roll out Pfumvudza/Intwasa inputs distribution to all farmers in the province, and therefore I urge you to strictly follow the guidance that you get from extension workers on Pfumvudza/Intwasa farming methods,” said Minister Ncube.
“As you receive the inputs, it is important to note that the Government has projected normal to below normal 2023/24 rainfall season due to El Nino, which is associated with droughts and flash floods.”
Minister Ncube warned beneficiaries against abusing the agriculture inputs, saying they risked prosecution.
“I am happy to advise you that the Government is availing Presidential Inputs to farmers in all our communities. Accordingly, I call upon all drivers of this programme to be transparent and accountable,” he said.
“Let me advise all people with corrupt tendencies of stealing and selling inputs that the full wrath of the law will be applied, be warned.”
Pfumvudza/Intwasa-the climate-proofed Presidential Input Scheme, introduced under the Second Republic, has been hailed as an inclusive game changer benefiting vulnerable households in communal, A1, small-scale commercial farming and old resettlement sectors in producing cereals, oil seeds and legumes.
The household climate-proofing programme has seen smaller-holder farmers improving yields despite erratic rains.
At household level, Pfumvudza/Intwasa supports nearly three million households countrywide.
The successful implementation of agricultural transformation programmes has enabled Zimbabwe to increase its food production and as such the country has stopped importing maize and wheat.
In Matabeleland South province over 65 000 farmers have received training under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme.
Agricultural Rural Development and Advisory Services for Matabeleland South, Mr Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu said they are targeting to train over 150 000 farmers.
He said there is progress in terms of land preparation by farmers. However, the province is yet to receive inputs while over 80 000 farmers have started land preparation.
“Preparations for the summer cropping season are going well and most of the farmers have finished and they are now awaiting inputs. Training is underway and we have reached out to over 65 000 farmers, and targeting to train over 150 000 farmers,” said Mr Ndlovu.
“Farmers have responded well to the call by the Government to adopt the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme as well as the call to start land preparation early.”
As the 2023/24 summer cropping season begins, Government advised farmers that a number of strategies will be implemented to increase the productivity of all crops, including information dissemination and technology transfer by up-scaling the Farmer Field Schools per village concept and intensification of use of digital platforms and online applications.
Other strategies include capacity building through intensive in-service training of agricultural extension officers; liming and soil reconditioning; climate proofing, irrigation development, and enhancing input support and availability.
The Government Climate–Proofed Presidential Input Programme is targeting 3,5 million farmers from Communal, A1, Small-Scale Commercial Farming, Old Resettlement and the transient urban cultivation sectors for cereals, oilseeds and legumes.