The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement will tomorrow launch the ZimAgriHub which is a farmer-focused national online library, the ZimAgricExtension In-Service Training Application, and the Lead Farmer Online Training Programme.
The digital knowledge resources are in line with Government’s ICT for Agriculture (ICT4gri) strategy and are expected to transform the sharing of agricultural knowledge and the delivery of innovation in the sector. They were developed under the Zimbabwe Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation services (ZAKIS) with support from the European Union (EU) and technical guidance from Welthungerhilfe Zimbabwe.
ZAKIS is part of the EU-funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP). The programme is a response to the challenges within the country’s agriculture sector. The €40 million financial support package seeks to contribute to the development of a diversified and efficient agriculture sector that promotes inclusive green economic growth. Its focus is on increasing profitability, building the capacity of farmers, service institutions, and the private sector through increased investment, institutional reforms, and policy alignment.
ZAKIS specifically seeks to improve Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector by enhancing the dissemination of agricultural knowledge and stimulating innovation through strengthening the working links among agricultural research, education, and extension services. The project is implemented by a consortium of local and international agricultural specialist NGOs, comprising Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Community Technology Development Organisation (CTDO), and Sustainable Agriculture Technology (SAT).
In an interview recently, the acting director for Agritex Mr Stancilae Tapererwa said: “We are very excited about this development, and we welcome it. These resources will allow our staff to sharpen their skills and keep abreast of new trends and technologies and position us to make a meaningful contribution to transforming our sector.” ZimAgriHub is an interactive website that offers up-to-date agricultural knowledge resources. It links researchers, educators, and extension service providers. The platform it is expected to address the information, curricula, and research needs of the farmers, the academia as well as those of the private and public sector players.
Commenting on the upcoming launch, ZAKIS head of project Mr Waddilove Sansole said: “Zimbabwe has a rich history of strong agricultural research. We have very informative archives and ongoing research, however, most of these resources are not located in one place and are also not accessible in easy-to-read formats. ZimAgriHub has been developed to solve this problem and to create a one-stop shop for all things agriculture.
We hope that it will become the go-to platform for a wide range of actors in the sector and beyond. This will support the Food System and Agriculture Transformation Strategy as it strengthens the pluralistic approach to extension.” The ZimAgricExtension In-Service Training app and the Lead Farmer Online Training Programme are android based solutions which are designed to build and strengthen the technical capacity of extension staff and farmers with demand-driven short courses. The training material is delivered online in video, audio, and text formats to ensure an engaging learning process.
Mr Sansole said that Zimbabwe has had one of the best extension services and farmer training systems in the region, which included on the job training that was designed to keep extension staff up to date with emerging trends and issues. “Both applications are therefore riding on the existing solid training foundation, and they add value by digitalizing the whole process. The ZimAgricExtension In-Service Training app will allow extension officers from across all of the ministry’s departments to train online and update their knowledge and will also allow cost-effective continuous training and development.”
Mr Tapererwa said that the ministry has in the past few months acquired digital devices for extension staff. “The ZimAgricExtension In-Service Training app is expected to benefit over 6 000 extension officers from Agritex, Veterinary and Irrigation services. Over 90 per cent of our staff already have the tablets, and we expect that this will have a huge impact on service delivery as we become more effective and efficient,” he said.