Old and new farmers urged to share knowledge

OLD AND NEW TOBACCO FARMERS URGED TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE
Harare June 6, 2012 (New Ziana) – There is need to bridge the knowledge gap between old and new tobacco growers in order to increase the average yield of smallholder farmers which has remained depressed, a cabinet Minister said on Wednesday.
Agriculture Mechanization and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made said this at a graduation ceremony for over 400 Agritex and tobacco growers at Kutsaga Research Station near the Harare International Airport.
Minister Made said new growers lacked adequate and appropriate training in tobacco production.
“This is evident from the current tobacco yields obtaining in the small holder sector,” he said.
Although current varieties have the potential to yield up to 4, 5 tones/ha, Made said the average yield for the smallholder sector remains depressed at below 1 tone/ha.
He said the opportunity lied in the ready availability of appropriate packaged information and relatively well educated grower base.
“The number of smallholder tobacco growers has increased from 7 000 in 2000 to over 50 000.
“It is in this context that I regard current initiatives aimed at bridging the information gap such as the Kutsaga Tobacco Improved productivity Sites (TIPS) and the Agritex “train the trainer” programme as critical in the development of small holder tobacco sector,” he said.
Made said tobacco production required use of on-farm calendar based practical and a business-oriented approach to improve productivity.
Speaking at the same occasion chairperson of the newly appointed Tobacco Research Board (TRB) Millicent Mombeshora said growth of the industry was underpinned by super quality seeds from the research board.
Mombeshora however said challenges in information gap between new and old farmers were affecting tobacco production and quality.
“There is a lot of non-adherence to stock destruction and the high rates of deforestation are a threat to the growth of the sector,” she said.
Meanwhile about 55 sites across the country’s tobacco regions were used as training centers where they went through theory and practical training.
Agritex and growers who excelled over others on the one year certificate programme received prices which included motorbikes, tobacco inputs, generators and cell phones.
New Ziana

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