By Bernard Mpofu, HARARE, March 3, (The Source) – Government plans to have local banks manage its $98.6 million small-scale agriculture credit facility with Brazil to minimise defaults, an official said.
Brazil extended the facility last August and the money would be disbursed in three tranches at six-month intervals.
Agriculture permanent secretary Ringson Chitsiko told a parliamentary portfolio committee on gender and development that the involvement of local banks would ensure timely repayments for the loans secured to acquire farming equipment.
“We are trying to source equipment from Brazil within the provisions of a government to government programme. When that equipment comes, we are hoping that it will go through the banks so that there is due diligence on the ability of the beneficiaries to pay for that equipment,” Chitsiko said.
“The beneficiaries that we are targeting are mostly smallholder farmers who can benefit in groups in a locality. They can acquire tillage equipment so that five or 10 of them can have a roaster on how to use that equipment. Or the individual farmer can apply and due diligence will be carried out by the bank who will be managing this facility. If all the requirements are satisfied the beneficiary gets the piece of equipment.”
Last month, agriculture minister, Joseph Made said the smallholder farmers, beneficiaries of land redistributed from whites, should not look up to government for inputs this season, a departure from the state’s tradition of dishing out free inputs and equipment over the last decade.
Made urged farmers to make individual arrangements with banks.
Chitsiko also lobbied Parliament to enact a law that compels farmers to carry out soil tests regularly because of concerns that many were overusing chemical fertilisers, damaging the land.