By Nesia Mhaka
Agricultural colleges have been urged to leverage on private investment in agriculture, including through public-private partnerships (PPPs).
This would enable them to access critical resources, achieve sustainability and scale-up business production.
Speaking at a workshop for the Climate Smart Agriculture Training of the Trainer Programme at Mazowe Veterinary and Shamva Agriculture Training Colleges last week, Mr Francis Vengai said through such partnerships, revitalisation of agriculture and the agro-processing value chain and beneficiation – infrastructure development and other objectives can be realised.
“Agriculture training centres should, therefore, embrace public-private partnerships to unlock value in their training activities,” said Mr Vengai, who is the deputy director in the Department of Agricultural Education and Farmers Training in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement.
“Private sector investment can be facilitated by the following measures: focusing on areas where returns are sufficient to attract interest from the private sector, blending and leveraging public funding to secure private funding and exploring other innovative solutions.”
He said PPPs bring in private sector management skills which are more efficient, often being more realistic in their estimates of time and costs than public agencies.
Speaking at the same event, climate change scientist in the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mr Tendai Mutasa, said there are more incentives for the private sector and private partners to build a realistic financial model that considers all the costs and revenue flows.
“The main advantage that PPPs have comes from the lowering of the total cost and improved project risk management,” Mr Mutasa said.
“PPPs are able to provide a more flexible and timely use of finance for vital infrastructure investments that might otherwise be tied up and inhibited by public debt pressures.”
Mazowe Veterinary College principal Dr Donora Nyamadzawo said they want to partner with the private sector but they do not have enough land to develop and expand their projects.
“We really want to involve PPPs here but unlike other Agriculture Colleges, this college does not have enough space/land to develop any project.
“Look at our animals, they are very few because we have a limited space to accommodate them. We are appealing for Government to do something about it.”
Agriculture, in the current environment, needs more focus to improve the quality and quantity of produce.
Climate change and water scarcity have emerged as the major challenges to agricultural sustainability, which needs to be addressed through multidisciplinary and multi-institutional efforts.
These include the use of cutting-edge technologies and forging partnerships across institutions and sectors. Production, processing and marketing in agriculture is a dynamic process due to continuous change in consumer demands and expectations.
Thus, an innovative approach is essential to meet the current challenges in agriculture.
Currently, PPPs are one of the best strategies to achieve the specified goals within the timeframe.
This will ensure the modernisation of public services and infrastructure in agriculture, health, science and technology, education, infrastructure development and extension.
Through PPPs, impossibilities are made possible with the contribution of both public and private partners resulting in better economic production, processing and marketing. Nhau/Indaba