Marondera — MOST A2 farmers in Mashonaland East province are next season set to benefit from a twinning programme with Hubei Province of China in which the latter will contract the farmers and later buy their produce.
The programme, the first of its kind, will see farmers giving the contractor part of their land while the contractor will in turn fund their (farmers) operations up to harvesting before buying the produce.
Mashonaland East Governor and Resident Minister Cde Aeneas Chigwedere yesterday said the province had last week drafted a yet to be signed memorandum of understanding with their Chinese counterparts, which would allow all idle land to be utilised.
"Our thrust at the moment is to increase agricultural productivity and we are starting next season with tobacco then we will proceed to horticulture, poultry, pig and cattle production.
"The farmer will enter into a 25-year renewable contract with the Chinese and should they decide to terminate the relationship, either party has to give a six-month notice," explained Cde Chigwedere.
The Hubei delegation arrived in the country last Thursday and yesterday toured several farms belonging to individual farmers and government institutions to see how they can partner the locals.
Government institutions like Grasslands Research Station, Mashonaland East Police Farm and the Prison Farm to name just a few are some of the targeted beneficiaries of the programme.
They will identify excess land and give it to their Hubei counterparts who in turn will also assist in developing vital infrastructure in the institutions, funding farming operations and later buy the produce.
"Hubei Province has given us their bank, Lian Feng, that will fund the programme. This will enable farmers to rehabilitate critical infrastructure such as barns, dams and irrigation systems. The bank will meet all the farmers' expenses including labour - a situation that will enable most farmers to meet deadlines and produce quality crops," Cde Chigwedere commented.
Chairperson of the Hubei Business Council in Zimbabwe Ms Li Song said they embarked on the programme after realising that most farmers had land but were not capacitated to fully utilise it. The twinning programme, she said, would provide the missing finance component.
"The programme can even bring more business to Mashonaland East other than agricultural. We will in due course organise exchange visits in which farmers from either country will visit each other to exchange notes," she said.
Mashonaland East Province is endowed with a good climate for agriculture - possessing characteristics of regions 2a, 2b and 3 that have good rainfall patterns and good dolomite soils in some places.
Natural region 2a receives between 750 and 1 000mm of rainfall per year while region 3 has between 550 and 650mm per year that can easily be supplemented through irrigation.