The phenomenal success scored under Government's pilot climate-proofed Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme last season should be enough incentive for farmers to replicate a similar feat in the first phase of the Rural Presidential Horticulture Plan set to get underway in December.
Essentially, this time around Government is targeting to take a new brand of horticulture to the communal areas where farmers are traditionally used to one or two fruit trees, some leaf vegetables, tubers and a bit of fruity ones like tomatoes.
The focus now is on six priority fruit trees -- passion fruit, pecan nut, guava, mango, macadamia and apple that will be distributed in batches of 10 for each variety to the benefiting households depending on the suitability of the fruit tree varieties to the agro-ecological regions and potential income they can generate.
Government is aiming to produce 3 681 seedlings of apple, 80 000 macadamia nuts and 800 000 pecan nuts while there are 89 891 mango seedlings.
Already, there are 1 181 apple and 35 413 pecan nut seedlings available for the programme.
The Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement 2021/22 state of preparedness report indicates that the first phase would be targeting 500 000 seedlings at a cost of US$1, 436, 804 ($119, 254, 732) including the cost of seedling production and establishment of seven state-of-the-art central nurseries.
To the business minded farmer, this programme will certainly be that link, which had been missing all along after performing the successful roll out of other programmes under crop production and will bring the much-needed crop diversity.
It is true that there is strength in numbers, especially given the current climatic challenges bedevilling rain fed agriculture that require a farmer to have various cropping options on the table lest the other fails.
The Rural Presidential Horticulture Plan will surely bring a new economic revolution in the lives of farmers because it will no doubt help broaden farmers' current revenue streams while taking care of some of their nutritional concerns.
In a way, the programme will also help farmers reducing their spending figures, as they will no longer need to buy fruits that are going to be produced under the programme and will instead be in a position to make money selling extras.
In fact, the most important contribution the programme will do is to boost food security and will liberate commercial farmers to revert to producing for export markets, which they have been currently struggling to satiate, as they also needed to meet demand from the communal areas.
This programme will mean more foreign earnings for the country.
The other benefit the programme will bring is infrastructure development in terms of such things as roads and irrigation.
Farmers doing the programme will need reliable sources of water, which means there will be development of more water bodies such as dams and weirs while irrigation infrastructure will also be a necessity.
This will help modernise agriculture, which feeds into Government's current drive to see the country moving from overly relying on rain fed agriculture to irrigated in the face of growing climate change problems.
Naturally, when the programme starts thriving there will be need for produce to be taken to markets outside the area of production, which means there are chances of more roads being developed or rehabilitated to facilitate smooth movement.
This will come as a benefit to communities in which the programme will be running.
Farmers will also need grading and storage structures, which means more infrastructure and job opportunities will come along the value chain.
Where there are irrigation activities taking place, there is need for electricity, so the coming in of the programme will make it necessary for power to be availed too.
There will also be need for electricity to be available to power storage facilities and keep some of the produce fresh before it is sent to the markets.
Electricity will be part of the added benefits to those communities involved in the programme, which will also see even those not taking part enjoying its availability for other uses.
Progressive farmers will obviously not look past value addition and are most likely going to do some kind of processing or drying of produce before going into the markets.
This will create jobs even if that will be on a small-scale, but the reality is that the community would be minus one or two unemployed persons.
However, for the above-mentioned benefits to be realised it will require the farmers to commit themselves the way they did with the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme that has seen the country becoming food secure and filling up its strategic grain reserves as well.
Farmers need to realise that the programme is theirs and that Government is only setting them up to be food self-sufficient and economically sound way into the future.
They must also realise that once the fruit trees are established, they will just need to maintain them and expand on numbers and hectarage to keep benefiting from them way into the future.
This programme should be the nucleus of bigger projects that will involve even more people way after Government has weaned the current beneficiaries.
The bottom line is that farmers must aim for optimal results every time like they did with Pfumvudza, which has allowed maize meal to be readily available and prices of maize products to fall to affordable levels for everyone.
Meanwhile, it is also encouraging to note that in the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Ministry 2021/22 season preparedness report, Minister Anxious Masuka observed that it was necessary to capacitate the Zimbabwe National Water Authority to undertake accelerated irrigation development.
"There is need to provide additional resources to capacitate Zinwa to undertake accelerated irrigation development around major dams (154 000 hectares) and rural horticulture schemes through enhanced borehole rehabilitation and drilling by providing additional 10 rigs for conducting ancillary activities," he said.
He added that production of fruit, vegetables and other horticultural products for export will be revived and the sector expanded with major investment coming in from the private sector and the Government under the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan his Ministry.
This dovetails with the national Vision 2030, aimed at achieving an upper middle-income status by that year, through transformation of agriculture from a US$5,2 billion to US$8 billion sector.
As projected under Vision 2030, the horticulture recovery and growth plan will not just boost exports, but also drive rural incomes, adding US$2 000 to the average household income for participating small-scale farmers by that year.