Minister of Finance and National Planning Situmbeko Musokotwane says the new Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme goes beyond fertilizer and seed, as it is designed to offer technical assistance to small-scale farmers.
Mr Musokotwane stated that the fertilizer provision alone without other things cannot uplift the small-scale farmers therefore, this Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme that is there is meant to intensify the help and technical assistance to the farmers from the extension officers.
He added that it is for this reason that more extension officers will be hired, and motorbikes will be bought for them so that they can reach more farmers and be able to advise them that for one hectare of land they can increase the yield out of it.
Mr Musokotwane noted that fertilizers are needed because they are an important ingredient for the farmers but now, it’s not enough just to give fertilizer, but the farmers should also be taught on how to apply the fertilizers correctly, and told on the new farming methods that are available and which seed are suitable for the area they are based in.
“Tell the farmers on the possibility that some of them may buy chemicals for weeding rather than depending on the manual weeding, as they can use chemicals to get rid of weeds,” he said
He mentioned that discussions of going beyond fertilizer have been held and the agriculture experts themselves have been advising the government over the years to not just focus on fertilizer but rather provide a more comprehensive package that will enable the farmers to be more productive.
“So, to this extent that we have chosen to do what the experts have been saying and we have hit the nail on the head by doing what the experts have been telling us,” he stated
“Our focus is on how to make the farmers to be more productive, because once the farmers catch on being more productive, it means that the requirements from the state will begin to be narrow,” he added
Mr Musokotwane said that the change in the programme is that the fertilizer that the government has been running with for several years, has enabled the country to have food and be self-sufficient, hence the farmers should be commended for this as there is a problem of food security in many African countries.
“Those who have to import wheat, maize they are suffering in terms of prices because of the war in Ukraine but for us we have been shielded from this, all thanks to our farmers including the small-scale farmers,” Mr Musokotwane said
He explained that because of the war in Ukraine, food supplies in the world have gone down because Ukraine was exporting a lot of grain, and Ukraine disturbed food supply which has become short in the world but people are also saying that it’s dangerous for most parts of the world to depend on one region of the world to be the source of food, because if there is a problem like the conflict that is there now, then many become vulnerable, so they are looking forward to countries in Africa to be the ones to crack up production and be able to be the global suppliers for food.
“Many countries want food from Africa, so the market is there,” he said
Mr Musokotwane mentioned that however, it is well known that the productivity of the small-scale farmers is low, whereas the commercial side of farms where they can get eight (8) to nine (9) tons of maize per hectare while the small-scale farmers sometimes get 1.5 to two (2) tons, now look at this one farmer gets eight (8) tons and another gets two (2) tons, it can be seen that the one who from the same area gets more tonnage is going to get more money, than the one that is only getting 2 tons from the same hectare will get less money.
“This means that if we help the small-scale farmers to upgrade their productivity so that from the same hectare that they plough, weed, and plant, if we can raise production out of that hectare to five, six or seven tons, it means that this farmer is going to get more money and he will be better off,” Mr Musokotwane said
Mr Musokotwane highlighted this when he made an appearance on ZNBC Sunday Interview Programme.