A Pilot project to socially and economically empower youths in Hurungwe district by the Government-owned EmpowerBank through $20 million vehicle for tobacco farming inputs has started to pay dividends.
The 164 beneficiaries of the bank’s Tobacco Youth Business Starter Pack put 110 hectares under the golden leaf and are expected to deliver at least 110 000kg to the auction floors whose estimated value stands at US$330 000.
Speaking at Mashuma Secondary School in Hurungwe West constituency on Friday, the beneficiaries hailed President Mnangagwa for coming up with initiatives that are people-centred and benefiting everyone despite location and race.
A youth from Nyamakate who has put half a hectare under tobacco, Ms Forget Kadzora, said the starter pack had given her a chance to be financially stable.
“We have been into tobacco farming, but failed to manoeuvre the terrains as we failed to access loans from some tobacco contracting farmers as we couldn’t produce any collateral,” she said.
“Empowerbank has come to our rescue with all the funding and I expect to reap more tobacco than in the previous years.”
Mr Silas Makonese encouraged the other beneficiaries to pay back the loans for the revolving programme to continue supporting the youths.
The bank targets to support at least 7 000 young tobacco farmers in the 2022/2023 farming season to put 400 -500 hectares under the crop.
In her remarks, Empowerbank board chairperson, Mrs Rudo Kumirai said: “We seek to support 7 000 young people, on 400-500 hectares under tobacco this coming season with an expected harvest of at least 500-400 tonnes valued at above US$16 million.
“At least $1 billion has been earmarked for disbursement to increase participation of youths in mainstream economy.
“We have also learnt that for youths to grow tobacco in profitable and sustainable way, we need adequate funding to cover inputs, irrigation systems, adequate curing facilities and working capital.”
The pilot-project has seen Mhuri Farming Company providing tobacco seedlings and technical support to the young farmers, with Grandicore Tobacco Company providing technical assistance expected to purchase the crop from the beneficiaries at a good market price.
Guest speaker, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry, said the project complemented the Second Republic’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and Vision 2030 agendas.
“Empowerbank is an important financial agency in my Ministry which is mandated to develop and economically empower the youth in line with NDS-1 and Vision 2030,” she said.
“This field day showcases the good works that the bank and our youths are doing. It is also pleasing to note that the bank’s great outreach to this part of the country in line with the cross-cutting NDS-1 priority area of devolution which is a response to President Mnangagwa’s call of leaving no place and person behind.”
Minister Coventry challenged youths to occupy the economic spaces and take advantage of various empowerment vehicles in place.
Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution and Hurungwe West legislator, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, warned beneficiaries against defaulting, while Zanu PF provincial youth chairman, Cde Tapiwa Masenda, lauded the government for opening economic avenues to the youths.