GOVERNMENT is working on an ambitious programme to restructure the Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (AGRITEX) into a body that will transition Zimbabwe agriculture from subsistence to commercial farming.
According to Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement minister Anxious Masuka upon completion of the transformation Agritex will be known as the Agricultural Advisory Services.
“Farming ought to transform to become not just a hobby or subsistence and to become a business. It is in this regard that Government is at a very advanced stage of restructuring Agritex. The Agritex that we know will be a directorate called Agricultural Advisory Services and underneath it, will be a Director for the technical capacitation of farmers and also a Director responsible for training.
We want the 18 000 A2 farmers to become businesswomen and businessmen and we want the 360 000 A1 farmers to become SMEs. We want the 1.8 million households to transition from subsistence to commercial farming and it is a journey that we can partake together to transition to that. Youth are very important in this regard. So it is something that we have started to do and it is something that we need to do in terms of the accomplishment of Vision 2030”.
Minister Masuka said government had already made strides in ensuring that extension officers are capacitated through provision of motorbikes and computers to excute their mandate.
“Those who should assist the farmers are the extension officers. We have capacitated them in two ways. Firstly, by availing them the adequate resources in order to give them the commitment and the strength to do their work. So, of the five things that we have promised to give them, we have given motorbikes that we have given to the Agritex officers who are mainly involved in livestock production and also farming. We are still to give them tablets and computers to enable them to do their work. We are hoping that we will get about 5000.
In terms of protective clothing, we have availed these especially in light of COVID-19, they can work without being at risk of contracting COVID. In English we have physically motorised them but we need to motorise them mentally for a change of attitude so that they do not become optional extensionists buy transition to business advisors as we commercialise agriculture. That is the stage where we are now. So we want to capacitate them with knowledge as to what they are supposed to do so that when they go and meet the farmers, they know what they are supposed to do. That is why we have developed the department of in-service training”