Command Agric flaws exposed

HARARE – The parliamentary committee on Lands, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development has exposed flaws on the Command Agriculture programme.

Presenting a report in the National Assembly on Thursday, the committee chairperson Christopher Chitindi said most farmers did not get inputs on time.

“In all the provinces that were visited by the committee, the recipients complained that they did not get the inputs on time.  In one case, at Chibero College, they received their Ammonium Nitrate (AN) fertiliser on March 9, 2017 and this was of no use because the crop had been badly affected. The college highlighted that they would store the fertilisers for use in the next season.

“Most of the farmers who interacted with the committee learnt of Command Agriculture through secondary sources such as neighbours and not from the official channels.

“This is due to the fact that most smallholder farmers do not belong to farming associations and Agritex officers are not mobile due to lack of vehicles.”

The committee also said the people were not comfortable with the word command as they believed it was linked to the military.

“The committee encountered both negative and positive perceptions about Command agriculture.

“In KweKwe District, in one ward, only three farmers were courageous enough to participate in the programme.

“The rest of the farmers shied away because of fear of the word ‘Command’.  The perception was that this is a military programme and if one does not live up to the expectations, the consequences will be meted out military style.

“In Norton, the farmers expressed displeasure that some people who did not have land or had small hectarage received inputs which they went on to sell on the black market.

“Furthermore, while waiting to collect their inputs at Chegutu depot, various trucks received first preference and the army were at the forefront in initiating the speedy collection of these inputs.

“One farmer in Norton refused to collect his inputs after being told he would only get seed and was not given assurance of when he would receive the rest of the inputs.

“His fear was that he would experience total disaster given that he did not have resources to acquire other inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals.”

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