Sunday, 23 October 2016


The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) will be participating in Government’s Command Agriculture scheme this cropping season to boost food security and nutrition levels in prisons and the country at large, Commissioner-General, Retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi has said.

Command Agriculture is a $500 million farming project being implemented by Government to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares of land. Under the scheme, 2 000 targeted farmers whose farms are near water bodies and each have the capacity to put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize, are set to get loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs, chemicals and mechanised equipment.

The farmers are each required to produce at least 1 000 tonnes of maize of which five tonnes per hectare will be committed towards repayment of the loans, with the farmer retaining all surplus for personal use. Because of these lucrative conditions, farmers are scrambling to get on board. In a wide-ranging interview last week, Rtd Major-General Zimondi said the ZPCS would not miss such an opportunity to utilise its farms.
ZPCS has about 24 farms and skilled manpower but much of them are not being utilised as it is lacking the required equipment and inputs.

“We have 24 farms around the country and if we were utilising all of them to their fullest capacity we wouldn’t have food challenges that we face sometimes in our prisons,” he said.
“So when people say ZPCS is not utilising its farms they are very correct but it is because we do not have equipment and inputs.  owever, we hope that the Command Agriculture programme will help because we have entered into it, we hope that we will get equipment and inputs.

“It is a good programme which will help the country and us as well. So we hope the rains will be good, we have two farms that have irrigation but they are not that big.”

ZPCS has enough land and expertise to grow adequate food for its inmates and officers but a majority of them have been lying idle. “We do not have equipment in those farms, mechanised equipment like tractors and planters,” said Rtd Major-General Zimondi. “We have the farms, the manpower is there, farm managers who have degrees and diplomas, all the skills we have them but what is left is the equipment.

“We even have good water bodies in some of those farms but there is no irrigation infrastructure. We also do not have the inputs such as the seed and fertilisers.”
Zimbabwe has 43 prisons with a population of about 17 000 people and reports say ZPCS has on some occasions failed to provide adequate food, leading to starvation and malnourishment in the prisons.

The Commissioner-General, however, refuted the claims.
“About the food that is given to inmates or the clothes and medicine, we do not have a problem,” he said.

“We do not have a problem with food for inmates, there are challenges here and there but they do not starve. Of course, life in prison is not like the one you live out there but I should emphasise that the food that we give them is not very different from our staple meals at home.”

He conceded that producing food on their farms would help improve diet and nutrition.
“Although Government is assisting we would do better if we were producing for ourselves because we would know where we are lacking and where we need to improve to say we need to grow such and such a crop to supplement our nutrition.”

So far, over 300 000 hectares have already been registered under the Command Agriculture scheme. The Government’s decision to embark on the programme was necessitated by the rise in national food insecurity from about 12 percent in 2011 to 42 percent this year.

Zimbabwe, like several other Sadc countries, had to rely on imports to supplement its meagre grain harvest this season. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Report said four million people needed food aid this year because of an El-Nino-induced drought. Other Government programmes such as the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme will complement Command Agriculture.

The Prison Services’ participation in Command Agriculture will likely be received as progressive as this could ease pressure on treasury. Correctional facilities in countries such as South Africa and Uganda produce food from their own farms and are even producing surplus for sale.

According to Penal Reform International, in most prison services throughout Africa, the main expense aside from staff salaries is food for the prison ration which is invariably purchased from outside contractors.

“The funds allocated for these rations are often only sufficient for one meal per day which is inadequate both in terms of quantity and quality. Again, most prison services in Africa have access to substantial areas of land, but this land is either unproductive or under-producing. Farm managers are constrained by lack of resources,” the organisation notes. sunday mail


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