14 November 2012

Zimbabwe: 'Capacitate Farmer Extension Services'

Bulawayo — A senior Agritex officer has urged government to capacitate the virtually defunct extension services to improve the country's crop yield and enhance food security.

Zimbabwe's once vibrant extension services collapsed after the 2000 land invasions, which have resulted in some communal farmers being underserviced.

In the past Agritex officers would visit all wards across the country educating farmers on different farming methods, a development which went a long way in capacitating cereals growers.

Dumisani Nyoni, senior Agritex officer for Matabeleland North and Bulawayo, said it was high time government capacitated extension officers in order to improve their mobility.

"Looking at our region, our wards are quite wide and for an extension worker to be able to reach out to all the farmers is a serious challenge," Nyoni said.

"We need to be mobile in order to address the challenges that we face. There is also need for the development of infrastructure to improve mobility for service providers so that at the end of the day, agricultural extension is effective and efficient," he added.

He said the government's freeze on public service employment had negatively impacted on the discharge of extension services.

"We also require support in the development of infrastructure, that is housing for personnel and also the mobility of personnel" Nyoni added.

He also said it was important for government to set aside funds for the rehabilitation of dilapidated irrigation infrastructure in a bid to alleviate the effects of drought.

"Some of the (irrigation) schemes were done before independence and they need rehabilitation for them to be useful," he said, adding that there was need for additional sources of water for both crops and livestock.

"We need funds for borehole drilling and the construction of small dams that could actually address the issue of water," Moyo said.

He added: "Going to research and extension, there is urgent need to continuously improve the access of information provided through policy makers on disaster management and also improving farmers' access to agricultural information."

On farmers' preparedness for the cropping season, Nyoni said it would be a challenge for them to address household food security, owing to high prices of inputs.

"If for instance in Matabeleland our forecast goes to above normal rain season it means requirement for top dressing fertiliser would be quite high yet farmers are facing serious challenges in terms of liquidity. So our ability to respond to higher rainfall would actually be quite difficult," he said.

The Meteorological Services Department has predicted normal to above normal rains in the forthcoming 2012-2013 cropping season.

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