Farmers’ advocacy groups contend that the country should have an inclusive, highly mechanised program to boost yields rather than sticking with the Pfumvudza concept.
The Pfumvudza concept was adopted by the Zimbabwean government during the summer cropping of 2020–2021.
Paul Zakariya, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU), however, told Business Times that the nation should mechanise to increase yields.
“The country should go beyond the Pfumvudza concept and come up with an inclusive highly mechanised programme which incorporates large scale farmers into conservative farming to increase yields. When we say mechanisation, it does not mean disc harrows and ploughs only but a wide range of implements that can be used to improve production and productivity. With small scale farmers alone using hoes, we won’t go where we are supposed to be [bread basket status],” Zakariya said.
He said large scale farmers should cut grass using tractors which can be helpful in terms of retaining moisture and reducing irrigation costs.
In order to mechanise the Pfumvudza/Intwasa farming model and increase food production and incomes for smallholder farmers, the government last year operationalized the $5 million Smallholder Mechanisation Facility to purchase at least 600 units of agricultural equipment.
The mechanical operation tool under this model has commonly been a hand hoe, which is labour-intensive, which has seen the government pushing for the adoption of modern technology involving engine driven equipment tailor-made to be effective and time saving but with less soil disturbance.
Zakariya, however, asserted that in order for small-holder farmers to begin using the facility, the process must be sped up since it has taken some time to complete.
“With machinery, you can employ very few people that can operate the machinery and save a great deal of money. Without machinery, we are hiring up to 300 people to help us to do some work and it is very expensive rather than to get equipment on a loan or once off basis,” Zakariya said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Shadreck Makombe weighed in saying :“Farmers are spending a lot of time digging holes which should not be the case.
“We need to mechanise across all categories to achieve high yields without putting much effort. This is smart agriculture that we want the whole country to adopt.”
The Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development minister Anxious Masuka also called for the need to expedite the Pfumvudza mechanisation project.
“There is a need to expedite the mechanisation of conservation agriculture [Pfumvudza / Intwasa] to sustain its adoption and help improve productivity in smallholder agriculture,” Masuka recently said.
“There is a need to upscale and increase support for climate-proofing technologies such as Pfumvudza / Intwasa by water harvesting, irrigation rehabilitation and development to climate proof agriculture and sustain the production and productivity gains among the smallholder farming sector in future seasons.”
When the government founded the conservative farming initiative, an average family of four to six required a bucket of maize every week and could produce food to last it a whole year on a small piece of land.
Buoyed by a milestone success, the authorities now want the programme to be boosted by the inclusion of machinery.
The strategy was to enable a family to get a tonne from the smallest possible piece of land.
A farmer can also irrigate crops using a bucket and get a bumper harvest as opposed to planting maize on a large area without adequate resources and end up getting one bucket or less per hectare.
“Mechanisation of Pfumvudza/Intwasa is a must and we are importing two-wheeled tractors that we will give to service providers in villages. In this space, we require at least 35 000 units of two-wheel tractors to be able to mechanise the communal areas so that we can get productivity up,” Masuka said.
He said the government is setting up service centres within the farming communities, that is, at the closest government offices, business centres and other central points for accessibility by farmers.