VISITING Food and Agriculture Organisation director-general Dr Jose Graziano Da Silva yesterday challenged agricultural research scientists and other stakeholders to develop local solutions to tackle challenges.
He said they should not always rely on external help. Dr Da Silva made the remarks when he addressed scientists and other players that included officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, inputs suppliers and extension agents attending a meeting in Harare.
"Look at your own capacities and use home-grown solutions to deal with problems. You must look internally to mobilise resources and use your knowledge before looking externally for funding.
"We also want local and regional research centres to partner FAO and form a web of some kind to bring together their expertise and promote competitive agricultural production.
"We have seed money for such programmes.
"We have been doing it in Latin America and it can also work here," Dr Da Silva said.
He said research scientists should prepare a document on their strategies to address challenges to farming and set priorities before presenting them to FAO, which would then seek funding for the projects.
Researchers, he said, should provide farmers with information that allows them to use technology efficiently and produce crops at relatively low costs while boosting yields at the same time.
"Our target is to increase production by between 50 and 70 percent by the year 2050 and this is only possible if we equip the smallholder farmers in particular with information on the use of cheap but effective technologies," said Dr Da Silva. He reiterated the need to eradicate hunger and malnutrition and challenged Government
to increase its visibility in the agricultural sector by stimulating market growth to facilitate the transition from subsistence to commercial production.
Director of Africa Centre for Fertiliser Development Dr Samuel Muchena, who also attended the meeting, said the biggest challenge farmers were facing was lack of access to affordable funding.
"Funding naturally underlies farmers' capacity to fully utilise fertilisers, infrastructure and even the soils and boost production," he said.
Seed Co Zimbabwe managing director Mr Denias Zaranyika said there was need for radical intervention to save the farmers as most of them had lost capital investment they had during the transition from Zimbabwe to the United States of America dollar.
The FAO boss, Dr Da Silva, is on a two-day visit to Zimbabwe. He also held a closed-door meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara.