Government has intervened to save 18 000 tonnes of winter maize crop in the Lowveld from wasting away in the fields by deploying machinery to ensure the entire crop is harvested in the next two-and-a-half weeks.
This year’s winter maize hectarage was increased ten-fold from 327ha last year to over 3 500ha, creating logistical challenges in harvesting the crop, two months after the scheduled harvesting date.
The long season maize variety was planted last July and was due to be harvested in December, but the prevailing wet conditions hampered the process at fields in Triangle, Hippo Valley and Mwenezana.
Combined harvesters could not operate on the wet and muddy ground forcing harvesting to be done manually. Manual harvesting of the crop is expensive and slow and the maize crop was also exposed to theft.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka on Friday toured some of the winter maize at Triangle and Hippo Valley fields to assess challenges encountered.
Dr Masuka said Government was going to intervene to speed up harvesting by deploying a specialised combine harvester beginning today.
“We have come here (Chiredzi) to familiarise with challenges encountered in harvesting the winter maize crop because of the wet weather conditions caused by incessant rains and also proffer solutions to these challenges so that we remove the maize crop from the fields,” said Dr Masuka.
“There were challenges with using combine harvesters in the wet fields, but we have ordered that a specialised combine harvesters that can take maize with high moisture content of up to 28 percent be deployed here starting Monday (today) next week and we are quite sure that within the next two and half weeks all the maize would have been harvested.”
An automatic bagging machine will also be deployed from one of the nearby GMB depots to bag the harvested winter maize which was being done manually.
Government had also availed three dryers to speed up mopping up of the maize ahead of delivery to the GMB depot at Nandi in Chiredzi.
“The increase in the winter maize hectarage this means there would be challenges in harvesting the crop, more so in the current wet season, but we are happy that so far 1 500 tonnes of winter maize have been already harvested with 900 tonnes having been delivered to GMB.”
Minister Masuka paid tribute to Tongaat for expanding the winter maize project in the Lowveld hailing the company for embarking on a social responsibility project to help engender national food security.
During years of food deficit, the winter maize would feed hunger-stricken communities in provinces bordering Masvingo such as Matabeleland South and Manicaland.
Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Ezra Chadzamira, who accompanied Dr Masuka on the tour also hailed Tongaat for heeding Government’s call to help ease food shortages caused by recurrent droughts by embarking on the winter maize project.
He said climate change-induced droughts required new interventions to ensure food security.
The Lowveld winter maize initiative was a model programme that could be replicated in other parts of the country.
Delays in harvesting the current winter maize crop have almost rendered it a summer crop with maize grown in the main season almost ready for harvesting in some areas.
Government has said this is a learning curve with the initiative subject to continuous refining to achieve best results.
Winter maize production is ideal for the Lowveld which boosts fertile soils and access to irrigation water drawn from several dams dotted in southern Masvingo.
The initiative is driven by Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe which supplies land and expertise to manage the crop, the Masvingo Development Trust which chips in with some resources in partnership with Government which provides inputs under Command Agriculture.