The uptake of the Command Agriculture Programme among dry land farmers in Matabeleland South has increased with 793 producers having so far availed 1013 hectares for the production of the maize crop.

Following the extension of the special maize programme to dry land farmers in the 2016-17 season, the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development has so far  registered 793 A1, A2 and communal farmers in Matabeleland South Province up from 347 in the previous season.

The provincial agronomist, Mr Innocent Nyathi said it is pleasing to note that 1488 hectares of land has so far been availed by both irrigation and dry land farmers for the special maize programme.

“We are happy to see more dry land farmers joining the programme, this is good as they normally get high yields. Our challenge at the moment is that most of our small holder irrigation farmers are not serious producers, they engage in farming activities as a way of life not as a business,” he said.

The biggest producer of cereals in the province, ARDA Maphisa will this season put 668 hectares of land under soya bean production with 57 dry land farmers having also expressed interest in growing the high value crop.

The Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) commended farmers in the province for embracing the Command Agriculture Programme saying their increased participation in the scheme will help boost food security and improve household income.

“We continue to encourage more farmers to take up the special maize programme and the command livestock facility so that as a region we are able to fight hunger and poverty,” said Mr Moyo

The 2017-18 season has been described as a success with 9587 tonnes of grain having so far been delivered to the national granary compared to 6182 tonnes recorded in the previous season.

Dehusking and shelling is still in progress in most districts with the tonnage expected to rise.