THE vision to enhance food security in rural areas received a timely boost when the Government last week handed over 18 tractors and other implements to the District Development Fund (DDF) to enhance land preparations.
The eighteen 80-horse power tractors and nine row seed drills were handed over to DDF by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister, Douglas Karoro.
The tractors were secured under the Zimbabwe-Belarus mechanisation facility launched by President Mnangagwa last year and will enable DDF to execute its mandate of providing tillage services to the farming community.
The Government is transforming farming into a productive, high value and market-oriented sector through modernising the DDF tillage fleet.
The goal, with the help of appropriate technologies, is achieving sustainable agricultural development and ultimately improve livelihoods, attain food security and spur exports of agricultural products.
Zimbabwe’s economy is anchored on agriculture and the Government is making efforts to improve the effectiveness of DDF and other tillage players as well as developing partnerships between them.
Mechanisation, along with other farm inputs such as fertilisers, improved seeds and pesticides, can significantly improve agricultural productivity.
DDF Manicaland provincial head Mr Robert Chawatama, said they were allocated two tractors and their accessories this week.
He said the tillage unit in the province was grounded due to an ageing fleet which was experiencing constant breakdowns.
The province was facing shortage of draught power as most small-scale farmers lost cattle to the January disease.
DDF has, therefore, been struggling to cope with increasing demand for tillage services.
“These are heavy duty tractors which will go a long way in ameliorating tillage service delivery in the province. The tractors are coming at a time when we were not offering any tillage services as all our tractors were grounded. The tillage situation in Manicaland was bad. Demand for tillage services is high and we hope we will be allocated more tractors to cover all our districts,” said Mr Chawatama.
He added:“Some of the tractors were purchased in 1994 and are past their life span. The mechanisation thrust by Government is, therefore, important and represent a key strategy in raising agricultural productivity in the country.
“The demand for their service is overwhelming, especially now that tobacco farmers are doing winter plough,” said Mr Chawatama.
A winter-ploughed field is much easier to cultivate since most of the weeds would have been destroyed by the sun.
The advent of contract farming, which has introduced mechanised farming, has courted the attention of most farmers in Manicaland – resulting in high demand for tractors and tillage services for the land.
The new tractors have capacity to till at least five hectares per day.
DDF’s dray rate is 30 litres of fuel per hectare, and US$45 for the tillage; or US$88 on the wet rate.
The dry rate is when the farmer provides fuel and pays for the tillage per hectare, while the wet rate is when DDF provides both fuel and the tillage service.
DDF is mandated with providing and maintaining rural infrastructure within the communal, resettlement and small scale commercial farming areas of Zimbabwe.
Equipment secured under the first phase of the Belarus mechanisation programme is being distributed to the DDF Tillage Department, other Government institutions and individual farmers.
At the peak of operational viability between 2002 and 2005, DDF Manicaland used to have 10 operational units per district, tilling between 10 000 to 15 000ha throughout the province.