The Zimbabwean government has earmarked $45 million for financially strapped small farmers and poor households lacking the means to buy seed and fertilizer to plant maize crops now that the Grain Marketing Board, traditionally a main source of inputs for struggling growers, has downsized its operations in this respect.
Investment Minister Tapiwa Mashakada said $20 million will be channeled to communal maize growers and $17 million to small-scale commercial farmers, with another $8 million going to vulnerable households. The funds will be administered through the Grain Marketing Board, the minister said.
Many farmers are under pressure because they cannot get bank loans to finance crops. Some are still owed money by the GMB for grain delivered last year and will be encouraged to accept payment in kind in seed and fertilizer.
Mashakada told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that although the funds are limited, the input scheme will go a long way to help struggling farmers.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Seiso Moyo said the government expects the Grain Marketing Board to distribute the agricultural inputs without reference to political affiliations.
Independent agronomist Thomas Nherera, a founder of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe, said there are high hopes farmers will soon start planting their crops as they will now be able to more readily access subsidized agricultural inputs.