By Byron Mutingwende
Preparations for the 2017 Harare Agricultural Show are exciting as they follow a successful agricultural season with food security assured, it has emerged.
In his address while addressing journalists on the preparations, Dr. Anxious Masuka, the Chief Executive Officer of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (ZAS) said the Harare Show sought to bring together new and established businesses with potential customers.
“This year we expect over 250 000 visitors and our plan is to grow the show so that 500 000 visitors, and potential customers spanning three generations, can visit the Show annually. Additionally, throughout the year, the Park is home to over 1.8 million visitors making it one of Zimbabwe is busiest business Parks,” Dr. Masuka said.
He revealed that in addition to the usual sections that make the show exciting, in 2017 there are new additions like the Cotton; the Eleven Tonne Club and the Miners Village Sections.
This year, the Agri-produce Section only draws winners of provincial Shows, 30 from each province, so the 300 winners must first compete and win at ward, district and provincial show level to get admittance into the Harare Show. Dr. Masuka said the judges will have a tough time since a tractor and motorbikes will be given out as the first prizes to the winning small holder farmer, for the third time in a row, with generous sponsorship from a tractor manufacturer.
The Livestock Section has a wide array of entries. Judges will be drawn from South Africa, with a strong contingent of local counterparts.
“The fear of avian flu will, however, lead to a ban on the display of birds at this year’s show. However, there should be rich representation from the dairy, beef, goats, sheep and piggery sectors. Competition is bound to be stiff. This section, will also for the first time be drawing winners from provinces and restricting direct entry into the Harare Show,” he said
The Tobacco Section will have winners from provinces and for the first time the Section decentralised and participated at provincial shows.
The new Cotton Section was formed to assist with improving productivity in the four cotton growing regions of Zimbabwe, to highlight the importance of the cotton value chain to rural development, to illuminate the role of cotton in foreign currency generation and to spur value addition and beneficiation in the Sector by bringing all value chain actors under one roof.
Of interest is the new Eleven Tonne Plus Club section that is dedicated to celebrating the cream of Zimbabwean farmers who have excelled in maize production. Over 80 farmers have come on board, and to date over 30 farmers have qualified to be in the Club, with the highest yields being 21 tonnes per hectare on over 200 hectares. Farmers are encouraged to visit the Club’s stand, so that they can interact with the high performers to improve their own yields by demystifying a few things.
The Micro, Small and Medium Industry (formerly Home Industries) Section continues to be the source of future entrepreneurs, so there is increased participation and financial support from the corporate world.
The Miners Village Section is unique in that miners have, for the second time in the Show’s 107 years of existence, agreed to participate at the Show to highlight the whole mining value chain from geology and exploration to beneficiation, while also showing the value the mining ecosystem generates and provides to surrounding communities. All the major sectors of gold, base metals, coal, diamonds and platinum will be fully represented so it is an opportunity for Zimbabweans to witness and interact with the miners. This also provides an opportunity to discuss the mining and agriculture conflicts and challenges on the ground.
At the Commercial Exhibitions, space uptake is 67 891 square metres (compared to 58 895 square metres) from all sectors of the economy, signifying an increasing confidence in the Harare Show as a centre for interaction between business and potential customers.
“So over 92% of the space available has been taken up. Last year some 73 776 square metres were taken up so this year so we are set to surpass this figure as we have also added some 2 500 square metres in a new hall, called the Convergence Dome, which will be taken up by the Command Agriculture programme, and various hall upgrades especially in J Nyerere Extension and Robie Mupawose Centre,” Dr. Masuka said.
It also emrged that to date, there were confirmations from various countries, but there was emphasis on the fact that the Harare show focusses on local business. All the commercial trophies this year have been sponsored. A new judging framework to improve accountability and transparency has been put in place. Therefore, competition is going to be stiff.
The official opening is planned for Friday 25 August. Arrangements have been made to ensure that this is a high profile event. A rich array of these interfaces has been lined up to provide executives, captains of industry and government officials an opportunity to meet, network, discuss, distil and synthesise important national value chain issues from seed to food.
For the visitors’ convenience, additional gates to improve capacity by upwards of 60% have just been completed. Gates and ticketing issues with improved convenience are all being worked out to ensure visitor convenience, including enlarged and additional secure parking space.
Security issues are at the core of visitor convenience and the ZAS has now beefed security and will be using latest technology including drones to ensure public safety. Children will again be tagged with the support of our partners to ensure their safety. The arena events include a programme for musicians, and fireworks daily, parachute dives, mass displays, horse riding and many other exciting displays to entertain the crowd. A vibrant and interactive website, a mobile app, and many more social media updates are available for show goers and exhibitors.
The seasoned agriculturalist called for the establishment of a conducive policy and regulatory enevironment, improvement in financing and training of farmers, and creation of market linkages across the agricultural value chain in order to increase production. He emphasised on the need to reduce the cost of production and increase the yield per hectare and make agriculture a viable business.