Tendai Gukutikwa Business Correspondent
SMALLHOLDER farmers need to adopt and embrace cost-saving technologies for them to increase their profit margins, a senior Government official has said.
Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Mr Vangelis Haritatos said mechanisation approaches that are affordable to smallholders have the potential to reduce production costs tremendously.
He said the country has acquired technology that reduces the use of fuel and allow precise application of seed and fertilisers while saving time.
Mr Haritatos said this in Nyanga when he officiated at the graduation of 45 agricultural service providers from the district.
The service providers were trained by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and the University of Zimbabwe to disseminate knowledge and services to the vast number of smallholder farmers in their respective communities.
It is also a form of employment as they generate income from it.
“Most smallholder farmers in the country are struggling to produce maize at costs lower than the price of importing it from abroad. Small-scale mechanisation is a cost-effective way to transform Zimbabwe`s smallholder agriculture,” he said.
He also said expensive farming schemes mostly benefit commercial farmers, who are a minority, while smallholder farmers, who the majority of food producers in the country, get nothing. Mr Haritatos said stimulating domestic maize production will require smallholder growers to adopt cost saving technologies.
He said mechanisation approaches, which are affordable to smallholder such as cheaper tractors, has the potential to reduce production costs tremendously.
“A good example is the two wheel tractor over four-wheeled one. They reduce the use of fuel, allow for precise application of seeds and fertilisers, and save time. They allow farmers to plant at optimum time and to get their product to the market faster.
“Small-scale mechanisation is value for money. One four-wheel tractor with a plough, disc harrow and a seeder costs US$60 000, and employs just two people, while the same money can buy a farmer 12 two-wheel tractors with conservation agriculture seeders. It employs 24 people, thereby boosting rural employment,” he said. The deputy minister also said two-wheel tractors are multi-purpose as they can be used for planting, spraying, harvesting, threshing, shelling, transporting and pumping water.
A two-wheel tractor equipped with a conservation agriculture seeder can plant five hectares per day while a four-wheel tractor used conventionally can only establish two hectares.
Quick crop establishment is key in the face of erratic rainfall, which is likely to occur during the 2018-19 season due to the El-Nino weather phenomenon.
One of the service providers Mr Nickson Nyahokwe had this to say:
“We hope to shell a lot of maize from farmers this season. Last season we shelled over 300 tonnes of maize and earned about $7000,” he said.