THOUSANDS of women, including spouses of African diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe, yesterday converged in Nyanga, Manicaland province, for the mega launch of the National Potato Farming Programme, a brainchild of First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa.
The initiative is part of her broad-based programmes to empower women and youths, and contribute to national food and nutrition security. Once women and youths were empowered, the First Lady said, families were guaranteed food security and rising cases of drug addiction would decline.
Supported by agronomists and Agritex officers, among many other stakeholders in the food production value chain, the programme — which will be taken to all the country’s provinces — seeks to ensure women venture into commercial potato production and earn a dignified living for their families.
Dr Mnangagwa called on board all stakeholders like the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) and AFC Commercial Bank for the success of the programme. There was a demonstration in potato planting by the First Lady and women led by Agritex officers at Muzoro Farm in Nyanga.
Beneficiaries plant potatoes during the launch of the national potato farming programme by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Nyanga yesterday
Each beneficiary received 40 000 tubers, 44 bags of fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. In her remarks, the First Lady paid glowing tribute to the spouses of diplomats for working closely with her and seeking to replicate some of her programmes in their home countries for the benefit of women and youths. The diplomats’ spouses present were from Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea.
“I want to welcome and thank my friends, my sisters who have accompanied me in all the programmes that I do in Zimbabwe seeking to know what I do in empowering the youth and women, because they, too, are also mothers who want to know and learn so that they do the same in their countries.
“I wish to see to it that families stay well and women are empowered, youths are empowered and drug addiction that is prevalent will be eliminated.
Beneficiaries of the national potato farming programme launched by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa break into song and dance with their farming inputs in Nyanga yesterday
Once we empower these two groups, then we know Zimbabwe is safe from drugs, and so is Mozambique, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea and all other African countries. So they want to take this to their respective countries because empowerment should reach all our women; all our mothers in Africa,” she said.
The First Lady said she felt honoured to launch life-transforming projects for the country’s citizenry.
“It is my pleasure to be here with a completely different programme, which I want you to embrace fully; of course, not forgetting other programmes we did before. These programmes, once we embrace them, will improve our livelihoods. They will build you as a mother, a boy or a girl and you men, all of us as a family. We are gathered here today as Manicaland province at Matema Primary School, Nyanga district, to witness yet another programme called the National Potato Farming Programme. I am looking forward to seeing women venturing into potato production because potatoes are fast income-generating crops, thereby they improve livelihoods.
First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa with spouses of African Ambassadors accredited to Zimbabwe, Mrs Eugenia Lucio of Mozambique and Mrs Chifundo Pole Pole of Malawi plant potatoes during the launch of the national potato farming programme in Nyanga yesterday
“The National Potato Farming Programme will address food and nutrition security in line with the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy for Zimbabwe. The National Potato Farming Programme will focus on introducing women across all provinces to commercial potato farming. The approach has been strategically anchored on production of potatoes for women groups owning one hectare self-sustaining plots across the country’s 10 provinces.”
Partners such as Kutsaga and Arda, the First Lady said, were also recognising and embracing the participation of rural women in agriculture.
“In Zimbabwe, potato farming is restricted to a select few farmers due to the high cost of farming inputs and, naturally, the lack of technical knowledge on how best to produce potatoes commercially. As a result, very few farmers enjoy monopoly and dominate the entire potato value chain.
Most of our African farmers are failing to produce high-quality potatoes and volumes that can attract commercial value addition, as well as consumers such as food processing companies and retail outlets. This has resulted in many women being unable to enter into commercial potato production. This programme’s main objective is to ensure that not one woman in rural areas is left behind as we progressively work towards achieving an upper middle-income society status by 2030. We remain committed to uplifting the lives of women and girl-child for a better Zimbabwe and a brighter future for all our children.
“Women will access seed after potato seed multiplication that will be done by an accredited seed house, and the seed will be channelled for production of commercial potatoes to the women outgrowers working with technical partners under a joint venture arrangement. I would greatly appreciate if women could demonstrate successful potato production and produce enough for consumption and export. I would also like to express my gratitude to our partners to continue supporting women initiatives for a better Zimbabwe.”
First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa with spouses of African Ambassadors accredited to Zimbabwe, Mrs Chifundo Pole Pole of Malawi, Mrs Margarita Oyono Obama of Equatorial Guinea, Mrs Zandile Livune of Zambia, Mrs Eugenia Lucio of Mozambique, Mrs Wentso Ifu of Nigeria and Minister of State and Devolution for Manicaland Nokuthula Matsikenyeri observe beneficiaries as they plant potatoes at the launch of the national potato farming programme in Nyanga yesterday
In her interactive session with the women, Dr Mnangagwa emphasised the need for people to spend time productively and not on gossip and other things that are not worthwhile. She told the gathering that while they embrace the new potato farming project under her office, they should continue working hard and participate in projects under the Agric4She initiative and also curb domestic violence.
She urged men to support their spouses and children in the project.
Speaking at the same occasion, Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Harare Metropolitan Province Mr Tafadzwa Muguti, who is also chairperson of the National Potato Programme Committee, told beneficiaries that the First Lady had unveiled a gem that would transform people’s lives.
“The national potato farming programme is an initiative conceptualised and developed by the First Lady. Amai has brought a programme that will bring change in our families, communities and the country, starting from here in Manicaland. She came about with this programme after asking us why people in Nyanga were failing to get much from their potato farming and we told her that seed was difficult to access and others sold it at prohibitive rates.”
The First Lady, Mr Muguti said, promised to do something and has indeed stood by her word.
Deputy Minister Vangelis Peter Haritatos
“She said she would help every woman and youths to plant a hectare and provide them with fertilisers, seed and chemicals. Amai is saying we should not import potatoes when Manicaland is there. Per hectare, a person will have a profit of US$6 900. Beneficiaries will be trained in potato farming,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Vangelis Peter Haritatos praised the First Lady for recognising that women were responsible for the nutrition, health and food security of the family.
“The initiatives by Her Excellency are in line with the ministry’s drive to move towards viewing agriculture as a business, reaching out to all to uplift rural livelihoods, usher in rural development and industrialisation while leaving no place and no one behind. As we witness the promotion of potato production at district level, which is meant to be cascaded to all other districts countrywide, in a trajectory to develop a vibrant potato value chain from production units to markets, proffering guidance on needed policy interventions for a sustained growth of the industry becomes important.
“This calls for collaborations within the value chain to ensure that the initiative will benefit our farmers, as they begin to see potato farming as a business. This is very crucial in keeping the momentum built thus far in the agricultural sector and is part of the agricultural transformation thrust.
They say consistency builds legacies,” he said.
Deputy Minister Haritatos urged the nation to embrace the potato farming programme, saying women and youth involvement were key to ensure gender balance and inclusivity as the country recovers from the effects of Covid-19.
He praised the First Lady for taking the lead in women empowerment, which could translate into significant gains for the agricultural sector.
Mr Itai Mazhangara, the regional sales agronomist, thanked the First Lady for the initiative, saying they will train farmers with a view to attain high yields.
“We will make sure the beneficiaries get a much higher return on their investment. Amai has used the diamond variety at generation number three. When it germinates it will be generation number four. This diamond variety is resistant to blight, which is called zaza in Shona. One can harvest up to 80 tonnes per hectare if a farmer follows the correct practices. We use a plant population of 40 000 per hectare and we expect one tuber to produce 2kg, which then translates into 80 tonnes per hectare,” he said.
The wife of Mozambican Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mrs Eugenia Lucio, who is also the president of the African diplomatic spouses group, expressed gratitude to the First Lady for allowing them to be part of her programmes.
“It has been a great honour today to be invited by the First Lady to come and see her programme on national potato farming. For us as diplomats and as women, we are very happy and we thank the First Lady for giving us this opportunity to see and learn from her. We are seeing what she is doing for the women to improve their lives in Zimbabwe. Mhamha Mnangagwa is an inspiration to all the women in Africa, especially in Zimbabwe, because she cares about people. She is changing the lives of so many people. For us as Africans, Amai Mnangagwa help us open our horizons to see what a woman with a good heart can do to help others. We will surely take a leaf from her and spread the same in our countries,” she said on behalf of the group.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Nokuthula Matsikenyeri expressed gratitude to the First Lady for launching the project in her province.
“Your visit here makes us keep warm in view of the great works that you continually bring to us showing your drive to empower women and youths. For the programme you brought today, we are so grateful. The lives of most residents of Nyanga, especially those in high-altitude areas which receive high rainfall, will be transformed through the national potato production. I wish to advise that Nyanga has 31 wards which rely on potato production.
“In terms of certified seed, most of our farmers cannot grow these because of prohibitive costs. So steep are the prices that most of our women growers cannot afford. I am grateful that with the programme that you have brought today, you have uplifted a section of women such that next year we shall see them at another level,” she said.
Equally ecstatic were beneficiaries of the programme. Mrs Catherine Mugwede (58) expressed her gratitude to Dr Mnangagwa for her assistance.
“I am expressing gratitude to Amai Mnangagwa who has uplifted us as women. We were lagging but she has leapt to our rescue and given us a sense of pride. We would not access inputs similar to the ones we received today, so we have been empowered. We promise her that we shall work hard so that we feed our families, communities and the nation,” she said.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mrs Elizabeth Munamba (59).
“I thank our mother for the splendid work she has done. She has shown her passion to uplift women and youths. We were being suppressed by men but she saw it fit to elevate us; so her programme has made us happy and will enable us to provide for the orphans we look after. We will be able to send them to school and we promise to work hard and produce high yields,” she said.