In response to the Government's calls to boost export earnings, the Chibero Agricultural Centre of Excellence in partnership with ZimTrade recently hosted an export development seminar for Agritex officers. The seminar was organised by the EU-funded Zimbabwe Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Services (ZAKIS) in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Resettlement.
ZAKIS is part of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme, a Government initiative whose objective is to enable farmers and value chain actors to improve their lives while contributing to agricultural growth and green-economic development by harmonising and strengthening the delivery of research, education and extension services to the farming community.
The seminar focused on export market information, trade opportunities, export procedures, certification requirements, market approaches, trends, and strategies for horticultural produce.
Commenting on the initiative ZAKIS head of project Waddilove Sansole said, "This seminar is critically important at this point because we as country urgently need to improve our export earnings.
"It is in line with ZAKIS' key objective which is to facilitate dynamic private sector linkages which are farmer-centric and market-oriented."
He said that Zimbabwean farmers enjoy advantages that include abundant productive land, a good climate that allows the exploiting of unique market windows in international markets, the right soil types, good agricultural skills, and experience, as well as good infrastructure and active Government support.
"We aim to equip Agritex officers with information to help them raise farmer awareness on regional and international export opportunities.
"This will allow farmers to effectively use the country's natural advantages to boost our economy," said Sansole.
According to ZimTrade, the country's horticulture exports for 2019 amounted to US$63 Million.
These included blueberries, citrus, fresh vegetables, dairy products, fresh beef, pork and poultry, avocados, butternuts, macadamia nuts, cabbages, and black fermented tea.
In an interview on the sidelines of the seminar, ZimTrade client manager Kupakwashe Midzi said "We would like to make sure that extension officers remain relevant and can assist farmers in their efforts to produce for export. As a country, we need exports and agriculture has a lot of potential which we must translate to actual production and transactions.
"We encourage farmers to take advantage of the available technical intervention programmes that are designed to enhance production efficiencies, product quality, and competitiveness.
"These programmes support the development of agriculture and agribusiness by assisting with expertise, training, and access to international markets."
These programmes include PUM (Netherlands Senior Experts), the Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee (COLEACP) Fit for Market Programme, and the ACP Trade Capacity Building Programme (TradeComm II).
Midzi also highlighted that TradeComm II will support the setting up of more than 25 horticulture irrigation schemes in the Eastern Highlands.
Speaking on the same occasion, Simba Nyama, the acting principal of Chibero Agricultural College said, "The workshop was an eye-opener as extension officers are now able to appropriately advise farmers on how to penetrate export markets.
"This will motivate farmers to shift their focus to the lucrative regional and international markets."
ZAKIS is being implemented by Welthungerhilfe in partnership with ICRISAT, Community Technology Development Organization (CTDO), and Sustainable Agriculture Technology.