‘Intwasa farming concept increased my yields’

BEAMING with joy, Mr Sofly Mthombeni (62) and his wife, Otilia (60) could not hide their excitement as they showed off their harvested maize at his homestead at Dundubala Resettlement area in Umguza District, Matabeleland North Province. Mr Mthombeni said they are expecting to deliver five tonnes of grain to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) out of 10 tonnes of maize harvested under the Government sponsored Intwasa/Pfumvudza Programme. 

For his farming efforts, Mr Mthombeni was voted the best farmer in his locality last week when he exhibited his crops under the maize and small grains category during the Redwood Zonal Agricultural Show, which was organised by Agritex. He walked away with two 5kg packs of maize seed, 2kg pack of small grains seed, a 20-litre bucket of molasses, bottles of herbicides and fungicides, a plough, a knapsack sprayer and gumboots. A Chronicle news crew visited Mr Mthombeni’s plot and he shared his success story.

Through farming, Mr Mthombeni said he managed to build his herd of cattle, starting off with five beasts and today he has 34. From the farming proceeds, Mr Mthombeni bought a truck and built a three-bedroomed house. “Farming is business to me and I eke out a living through farming and I sell my produce to the GMB. Through farming I managed to buy five beasts after selling maize to GMB and they have been multiplying over time,” he said. “I also bought a truck, which I am using to carry stockfeed and delivering my produce. I also built a three-bedroomed house using proceeds from farming.”

When Government introduced the new farming concept in 2020, Mr Mthombeni who used to rely on oxen for draught power, was initially pessimistic. It took a countless number of visits to his home by Agritex officers to try and convince him to adopt the Intwasa farming model. Mr Mthombeni has become a role model in his neighbourhood. He has made a great difference by emerging as a highly successful farmer who recorded a bumper harvest of maize despite the prolonged dry spell in February that affected most farmers across the country.

When Government introduced Intwasa in March 2020, the aim was to maximise productivity per unit area, even during drought periods. Intwasa involves the utilisation of small pieces of land and applying the correct agronomic practices for higher returns. The approach can be used in areas receiving marginal rainfall and still give high yields. According to agriculture experts, Intwasa ensures food self-sufficiency. An average family of four to six requires a bucket of maize every week and with Intwasa they can produce food to last them a whole year on a small piece of land.

With the Intwasa concept, a farmer can also irrigate crops using a bucket and get a bumper harvest as opposed to planting maize on a large area without adequate resources and end up getting one bucket or less per hectare “I started farming in 2008 after securing land under the Land Reform Programme. In my first year, I didn’t harvest much, but in the subsequent years, I have been recording bumper harvests and delivering surplus grain to GMB,” said Mr Mthombeni.

He said the highest quantity of grain that he has so far delivered to GMB was 10 tonnes during the 2019/2020 farming season. “This year, just like other farmers in most parts of the country, I was affected by drought and will only be able to deliver half of what I delivered to GMB in the previous season,” he said. Mr Mthombeni has managed to perfect the art of conservation agriculture after receiving support and extensive training from Agritex officers who have been working with farmers in Umguza district to increase the uptake of conservation agriculture.

“Agricultural extension officers have been training us on Intwasa and I have actually perfected my skills. “With Intwasa you don’t need expensive fertilisers and other inputs as conservation agriculture uses local resources to boost yields,” he said. “As a farmer, I have embraced Intwasa or Pfumvudza farming concept because it increases yields while protecting fields from erosion, improving soil quality and mitigating the effects of drought. “I planted early and adequately prepared my land, which is why I managed to salvage something meaningful in the fields despite the erratic rains last season.”

#From his bumper harvest, Mr Mthombeni said he will donate part of the maize to his relatives who were affected by drought. Mr Mthombeni attributed his success to his wife. “My wife is my pillar of strength when it comes to farming and she has been supportive throughout. “Everything that you are seeing is because of her support and hard work,” he said.

US$90 per tonne incentive for grain delivery

Farmers who deliver maize and traditional grains to the Grain Marketing Board before the end of next month, will now get an extra US$90 a tonne over and above the $75 000 a tonne producer prices set recently for all four summer grains, with the same US$90 a tonne incentive given for deliveries of the pricier sunflower and soya beans.

The Cabinet agreed to the extra incentive bonus yesterday, which will be backdated to the beginning of April when the marketing season opened so farmers who have already delivered will the getting the extra. The bonus is an incentive for farmers to push their harvesting, drying and delivery timelines. Government yesterday described the package and pricing as the most competitive in the region.

The announcement was made after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting by Information Communication and Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere who was standing in for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa. The measures to reward the most efficient farmers were tabled before Cabinet by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Anxious Masuka.

Zimbabwe started the new marketing season with large carryover stocks from last season. On April 1 when the GMB was ready to take deliveries from the new harvest there were stocks of 453 717 tonnes carried over from the previous season as a strategic grain reserve. Cabinet also approved a review of the price of maize to ensure farmers’ viability. Dr Muswere said Cabinet resolved that cotton will now be treated as an export crop, just like tobacco, with prices being determined by fair pricing based on international lint prices. “This should motivate growers to produce more in the coming seasons,” he said.

He also gave a status report on wheat and tobacco and tobacco sales so far. Commenting on the producer price structure, Dr Masuka said the $75 000 a tonne paid for maize, sorghum, millet and rapoko, coupled with the US$90 incentive adds up to the equivalent of US$350, a figure he said was competitive. “If you look at the import parity price for maize and if you look at this price framework, this is a very lucrative arrangement for farmers. It is giving them the equivalent of US$350 which is comparable if not better than anywhere else in the region. Farmers should take advantage of this generous offer from Government,” said Dr Masuka.

Soya farmers are paid $171 495 a tonne and sunflower farmers $205 794,52 a tonne according to the GMB website and they will now be getting the extra US$90 a tonne if they deliver early. Fertiliser will now be sold in foreign currency in an open market since some components are imported but those accessing it using the Government schemes, the majority, would pay in local currency. Reacting to the incentive, one farmer organisations, the Zimbabwe Women Farmers Trust, has welcomed the incentive, saying it will encourage them to deliver their crops early. #

Zimbabwe Women Farmers Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo told The Herald last night that the “incentive is welcome”. “I think it is a good way of promoting the early delivery of maize to the GMB. We commend the Government for this but we recommend that this incentive should be offered every year from now, so that farmers know that when they deliver their crops early, they will get an incentive,” said Mrs Nkomo. Meanwhile, commenting on why the Government was not fully dollarizing, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube said there were a number of challenges, some very serious, that would arise if this was done including the destruction of the banking sector and local industry will no longer be competitive and will be cut back sharply.

The last time Zimbabwe went for dollarization many factories closed or cut back on production and staff as imports took over. “This is what will happen on day one if you adopt the United States dollar as the only currency, something nasty is going to happen. “Four things as a minimum will happen. You will wipe out the entire banking sector. Because you need to convert their Zimbabwe dollar balances into US dollars, banks will have negative balances. You will have a crisis; you will have no banking sector. “Secondly, very quickly you will have a cash crisis because you cannot print US dollars and there will be a divisibility problem; the small denomination notes will be in short supply and you will start to have cash queues in the banking sector,” said Prof Ncube.

“The advantage of having a domestic currency circulating with US dollar is we will have to manage the cash crisis. We have been through this before. If you remember we had to create something called the bond notes but that was before I arrived, in order to deal with some of the cash crisis,” he said. He said the economy, particularly the manufacturing sector will lose its competitiveness if the domestic currency is done away with. “Also you will do away with the monetary policy. You need both fiscal and monetary policy or you will be walking with one leg. So something nasty will happen if you just use the United States dollar,” said Prof Ncube. On constant fuel price increases, Prof Ncube said the situation would be worse if the country was not blending with ethanol.

Millers offer to pay GMB USD for maize

THE Small to Medium Millers Association of Zimbabwe (SMMAZ) has proposed to buy grain from the Grain Marketing Board in foreign currency as part of the organisation’s efforts to complement Government in incentivising farmers to deliver cereals to the parastatal. Farmers have not been delivering gain to the GMB prompting Government to increase the producer price and introduce a foreign currency payment component.

On Tuesday, Cabinet approved a review of the price of maize to $75 000/ per tonne plus a fixed early delivery incentive of US$90 per tonne to incentivise farmers. The early delivery incentive, which will be extended to other crops such as traditional grains, sunflower and soyabean, is payable to July 31 2022, and applies to all deliveries made since the commencement of the marketing season.

SMMAZ said their proposal to buy grain in foreign currency was necessitated by the current situation where there were low deliveries of grain by farmers, and the downstream delays in grain allocations to millers which was affecting the viability. “Currently, GMB is not receiving adequate deliveries as farmers are essentially holding out to be paid in foreign currency to preserve value and be able to purchase inputs for the next farming cycle.

“The imported stocks of grain coming into the country have also influenced the farmers perceived value of maize, as that maize is being sold to millers in US dollars at around US$250per tonne,” said the millers. “This has led to side marketing of grain to obtain greenbacks, and thus resulting in poor deliveries of grain to the GMB. Seeing no material difference between local and foreign maize; and with a bias towards supporting our own farmers and industry for sustainable economic growth and development; we have opted for this route to assist in breaking the impasse between Government and farmers”.

SMMAZ chairman, Mr Davies Muhambi, said millers were supporting Government’s initiatives to have grain delivered to the GMB. “We welcome the latest price adjustments made by Government. We are in the same direction with Government. We have been allowed to import grain but we are also considering the plight of our farmers. “It is prudent for us to first support our local farmers before we import grain from other countries. When we import there are issues of handling that comes into play. So it is best that we support our own farmers,” he said. Mr Muhambi said importing from others countries meant exporting jobs.

“When we buy imported maize or maize meal, we do not only export farming jobs, but we also export confidence in growing service, viability, farmers and the integrity of our own staple. “We are strongly convinced that we would much rather support our local farmers first before foreign entities, and preserve our hard-earned forex, which we can then employ in different sectors of our economy and/or employ it in value addition within the milling industry,” he said.

The millers believe paying local farmers in foreign currency and not at the auction rate, will ease the current teething problems and improve efficiencies, confidence and viability in the entire grain production and milling sector value chain. “It will bolster relations between our Government and farmers, which are essential in creating sustainable agro-industrial growth,” Mr Muhambi said. The millers however, expressed concern over the delays in grain allocation by the GMB. Some of the millers said they were yet to receive grain while their funds were still held up with the GMB.

According to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development’s Second Crop and Livestock Assessment report, the country is expected to harvest an estimated 1 557 914 tonnes of maize and 194 100 tonnes of traditional grains for the 2021/22 summer cropping season. Although there has been a decrease in cereal production from last year’s harvest, when taking into consideration the amount of maize and traditional grains in the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR), Zimbabwe will still have a surplus.

Mat’land farmers hail Government’s grain incentive

FARMERS in Matabeleland have welcomed the decision by Government to offer them an extra US$90 bonus incentive per tonne for those who deliver maize and traditional grains to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) before the end of next month. The incentive, which is reflective of the current economic situation, is over and above the $75 000 a tonne producer price set recently by the Government for all four summer grains.

Government on Tuesday announced the new bonus incentive after the Cabinet approved the proposal by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement to reward farmers for their efforts. In his post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, The Minister of Information Communication and Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said Government agreed to the extra incentive bonus, which will be backdated to the beginning of April when the marketing season opened. Zimbabwe started the new marketing season with large carry-over stocks from last season.

On April 1 when the GMB was ready to take deliveries from the new harvest there were stocks of 453 717 tonnes carried over from the previous season as a strategic grain reserve. Fertiliser will now be sold in foreign currency in an open market since some components are imported but those accessing it using Government schemes will pay in local currency. In separate interviews, farmers lauded Government for the initiative, saying it will encourage them to deliver their crops early and help address some of the challenges such as buying inputs. Going forward, farmers urged Government to consider pegging the producer prices 100 percent in foreign currency.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union chairperson for Matabeleland region, Mr Winston Babbage said the US$90 per tonne will help farmers purchase inputs such as fertiliser and chemicals, which they buy in foreign currency. “We welcome the Government’s decision to incentivise farmers through the introduction of the US$90 per tonne bonus, which we will address in terms of the cost of production.

Suppliers of inputs want to be paid in United States dollars while farmers are being paid in local currency,” he said. “As farmers, we are saying if the Government can import maize from other countries using foreign currency, surely, they should also pay us in foreign currency so that we produce more and save our foreign currency reserves through importing grain.” Mr Babbage urged Government to consider subsiding or distributing inputs on contract farming basis. “Our hope is that going forward, the Government will consider paying us 100 percent in foreign currency since we are buying all our inputs in 100 percent forex.

The cost of production is astronomical because we are paying in US dollars,” he said. “We urge the Government to subsidise or distribute inputs on contract farming basis so that it becomes a win-win situation. Not everyone is benefiting from the Presidential Input Scheme.” Mrs Cookie Moyo, a farmer from Bubi District in Matabeleland North said: “To us as farmers, we are thankful to the Government for this initiative, which will address some of the challenges in the farming business. Indeed, this is a bonus to us as farmers because we will be able to buy inputs such as fertiliser so that we continue farming and ensure food security in our country.”

Another farmer from Umguza district, Mr Mehluli Ndlovu said the bonus will encourage farmers to make early deliveries to GMB. “The US$90 per tonne incentive will encourage us as farmers to deliver grain to GMB early thus boosting the country’s food security. To us, it is an early Christmas and we are looking forward to the Government further increasing the producer price in foreign currency so that we are able to buy more inputs,” he said. Mr Ndlovu urged the Government to address the stability of prices of inputs so that they do not lose out. “A bag of ammonium nitrate costs about US$70, but as farmers we are paid in Zimbabwean dollars.

We want to have all that addressed for the producer prices to be viable,” he said. Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said the incentive to farmers is a step in the right direction. Dr Makombe said farmers will be motivated to produce more following the introduction of US$90 per tonne incentives. “The introduction of the US$90 per tonne incentive is a reflection of the Government’s sensitivity to our plight as farmers and listening to our lobbying. This is something that we really acknowledge and appreciate because it is a step in the right direction,” he said.

“However, we continue lobbying and engaging the Government so that the 30 percent we are getting in foreign currency for delivering grain to GMB is raised to 100 percent. This is because as farmers, we are also saving the import bill which ordinarily was going to be spent by the Government. Dr Makombe said most farmers had not started delivering to GMB because the season started very late. Commenting on the producer price structure, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Anxious Masuka said the $75 000 a tonne paid for maize, sorghum, millet and rapoko, coupled with the US$90 incentive adds up to the equivalent of US$350, a figure he said was competitive. “If you look at the import parity price for maize and if you look at this price framework, this is a very lucrative arrangement for farmers. It is giving them the equivalent of US$350 per metric tonne which is comparable if not better than anywhere else in the region,” he said.

“The $75 000 per metric tonne and US$90 early delivery incentive is a simplification of the area around the pricing regime where we are looking at 30 percent being paid in US dollars while 70 percent being payable in Zimbabwe dollars.” Dr Masuka urged farmers to take advantage of the Government’s generosity by delivering before July 31. “The US$90 per tonne and $75 000 will be able to motivate farmers to get back to the field and I regard it as a fair reward for the farmers’ effort. This incentive is backdated to when the first deliveries were made so no farmer will be prejudiced,” said Dr Masuka.

Zim food secure, says President

Zimbabwe’s food security is guaranteed, with the country set to hold a grain surplus in excess of 100 000 tonnes carried over from last season’s bumper harvest this year, President Mnangagwa has said. Writing in his column for The Sunday Mail, President Mnangagwa said the Government was introducing a cocktail of interventions to stimulate grain production and climate-proof agriculture to ensure the country was food secure at all times.

He said measures being rolled out included reviewing the grain producer price, accelerating the development of irrigation programmes and facilitating localisation of the production of key agriculture inputs. The President said the Presidential Input Support Programme will also be enhanced, with inputs set to be distributed before the onset of the summer cropping season, while the Pfumvudza programme would be streamlined through the introduction of efficient tillage technologies.

“The just-ended 2021-22 season has not been that good,” said President Mnangagwa. “It was slow to start and characterised by poor and erratic rains. “As if that was not bad enough, the country was hit by a severe early-to-mid-season drought which subjected most crops to severe moisture stress. “As I indicated, five provinces (Manicaland, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South) were hit hardest and could not recover. “Because of that, our harvest has come down to 1,8 million tonnes, 400 000 tonnes short of our yearly national requirement of 2,2 million tonnes.

“Thankfully, our Strategic Grain Reserves, SGR, hold 500 000 tonnes from the 2020-21 season. “That means we exceed our yearly national grain needs by some 100 000 tonnes, which we expect to remain in SGR until the next harvest. “We thus are food secure.” He said interventions to support farmers were being rolled out to ensure that local grain production meets demand.

To guarantee farmers’ viability, the President said, the grain producer price is being reviewed. The maize producer price is currently pegged at $58 553 per tonne. Recently, Government introduced a US-dollar incentive for early grain deliveries with farmers now entitled to 30 percent of their payment in foreign currency, while the balance is being paid in local currency. The US-dollar incentive is calculated at the willing-buyer, willing-seller exchange rate on the date of delivery.

“Beyond food distribution, Government must ensure the nation is ready for the 2022/23 season. “In essence, this means Government must ensure the farmer is able to “go back to the land with great expectation in the coming season. “I am aware that we have already announced producer prices for the current season, including undertaking to pay 30 percent of early deliveries in United States dollars. “Still, all that is not adequate to get the farmer back onto the land in the next season.” He said there have been significant price movements since the announcement of this season’s producer prices.

“These price movements were partly related to the unstable exchange rate; they have made those producer prices announced earlier on non-viable to the farmer. “The farmer must be supported. “I have directed Government to revise grain producer prices so they are adjusted in the light of the aforesaid movements, and to ensure farmers are motivated to go back to the land in the coming season.” In light of the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe, said the President, Government was actively pursuing the localisation of the production of key agriculture inputs.

He added: “Government will also address prices of inputs so farming remains viable, making food both abundant and affordable. “On my part, the Presidential Input Support Programme will be enhanced so our small farmers escape the ratchet effect from the bad 2021/22 season. “Distribution of inputs will start early, buttressed by more efficient tillage technologies which the responsible Ministry is developing to support the Pfumvudza Programme.”

Addressing the recent public anxieties caused by news that the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe was set to import around 400 000 tonnes of grain, President Mnangagwa said it was policy that private millers should meet 40 percent of their grain needs. He said it was this portion that GMAZ was importing. “The policy is meant to nudge them towards playing their part in supporting local farmers through contract growing,” added the President.

“These farmers, after all, are prime producers of the raw materials which drive their milling business. “GMAZ must thus play a part through such backward linkages. “Where such arrangements fall short of 40 percent of their grain requirements, GMAZ is expected to meet the shortfall through purchases or imports paid from own funds. “That measure protects our Strategic Grain Reserves, while also ensuring Government has enough grain from the crop it will have wholly funded to meet needs of the vulnerable in our society. “Above all, the policy ensures millers share the burden of funding grain production in the country. “As private players, Government cannot subsidise them through the Government-guaranteed contract growing scheme.”

President Mnangagwa said the recent announcement of measures to regulate the movement of grain were meant to curb side-marketing. He said self-sponsored farmers are exempt from the regulations upon applying for a special permit from the Grain Marketing Board. “Farmers falling outside Government-guaranteed producer contracts can retain or freely market their grain to markets of their choice by getting exemption permits from GMB,” he said. “Such permits clear them to move grain as they see fit, but within the country.”