Government should come up with a comprehensive agricultural policy as well as develop a clear irrigation framework spelling out selection processes for beneficiaries to enable the country to attract meaningful investment, legislators have said.The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development said mechanisation facilities should also include solar systems to minimise power costs.
This was said by committee chairperson and Muzarabani South Member of the National Assembly Cde Christopher Chitindi (Zanu-PF) on Tuesday, while presenting a report on the utilisation of the Brazilian Mechanisation Facility.
The report also contained the livestock situation in Zimbabwe. "The Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development should finalise and launch a comprehensive agricultural policy, as well as develop a clear irrigation policy that lays out the selection process of beneficiaries, which takes into account gender issues in line with the Constitution by end of year," said Cde Chitindi.
"In the absence of the said policy frameworks, it will remain difficult to attract investment in the agriculture sector. There is no clear irrigation policy in Zimbabwe, mechanisation facilities (funding) are piecemeal solutions to the challenges faced by the irrigation schemes.
"A clear policy will not only attract investment in the irrigation sector, but lay down irrigation scheme management."
The committee observed that failure to give consideration to production costs such as electricity, water and tillage might result in farmers failing to realise meaningful profits.
"Although the Brazilian Mechanisation Facility is meant to increase yield capacity, failure to give consideration to production costs such as electricity, water, tillage may result in farmers failing to realise meaningful profits, thereby hampering the success of the programme," said Cde Chitindi.
"Mechanisation facilities should also include solar systems to enable irrigation schemes to substitute ZESA electricity with solar power systems and minimise costs of electricity in line with the use of renewal energy.
"New arrangements such as (those with) India and Belarus should, therefore, encompass solar power." Cde Chitindi called on periodic evaluation and monitoring of the project
"Irrigation schemes should be capacitated by providing value addition machines to be able to add value to their produce as a strategy to increase their profit margins in line with the detects of Zim-Asset," he said.
Cde Chitindi said they were told by the Secretary for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Mr Ringson Chitsiko about the implication of the late delivery of the equipment.
"The Permanent Secretary also acknowledged that the assessment exercise to evaluate suitability of irrigation schemes to receive the equipment was conducted five years ago, hence some of the equipment delivered to farmers may no longer be suitable," said Cde Chitindi.
Chiredzi South MP Cde Callisto Gwanetsa (Zanu-PF) said there was need for a proper coordination among State entities in working with farmers to boost yields.
"Wherever we went around, there was nobody who represented Grain Marketing Board, Agriculture Development Bank of Zimbabwe or anybody who represented Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), yet we are saying if only these parastatals had representatives in these irrigation schemes, the problems would be nipped in the bud before they cause destructions," he said.