John Bhasera
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Government invests in tech to sustain record wheat output

THE government has acquired drone technology to help Zimbabwe achieve record wheat production of 400 000 metric tonnes.

Agriculture ministry permanent secretary John Basera said the government recently acquired nine drones to curb the impact of quelea bird infestations, which have in the past caused wheat yield losses of as high as 95 percent.

Basera said the government had acquired the drones — which can be utilised for free by farmers — because it was determined to build on the record 375 000 tonnes of wheat achieved last year, the highest since the crop was first farmed in the country in 1966.

“The purchase of the drones was timely; they have come at the most opportune time as our wheat is now entering its most vulnerable stages.

“Productivity is largely undermined by threats of pests and diseases across all agricultural enterprises and in light of this, the government has seen it necessary to establish well-equipped migratory pets and biosecurity control departments so as to address challenges caused by migratory pests.

“The migratory quelea birds have become our biggest threat to wheat production with estimated yield losses exceeding 95 percent if uncontrolled. The fight for grain self-sufficiency entails safe – guarding and preventing avoidable losses,” Basera said.

He added that the benefits of deploying drone technology in agriculture included greater precision in surveying, mapping and monitoring large areas of land; and reduced risk of accidental poisoning as machines applied pesticides in a safer manner than humans.

The government’s intervention comes as areas such as Tsholotsho, Hippo Valley Estates in the Lowveld, Birchenough Bridge and Shamva have in the past been invaded by the migratory quelea birds.

The milestones Zimbabwe is achieving on the food security front are not going unnoticed internationally, with the World Food Programme (WFP) recently praising the country for increasing food production to record levels.

At the recent signing of a letter of understanding between the government and the UN agency, WFP representative and country director Francesca Erdelmann commended Zimbabwe for coming up with food security initiatives.

“WFP commends the progress made towards food security in Zimbabwe despite setbacks and complex climatic and eco – nomic challenges in recent years. “WFP’s country strategic plan represents our contribution to the achievement of National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and our commitment to harness the energies of Zimbabweans to pursue their dreams and aspirations.

Together, in the spirit of SDG17, we can realise an equitable and sustainable for our food systems to ensure that every person in Zimbabwe has access to and consumes sufficient, diverse and nutritious food at all times,” said Erdelmann.

The endorsement of Zimbabwe by the WFP comes as the government has resolved to sell 10 000 metric tonnes of maize to Rwanda as the country has sufficient grain to last more than five months.

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