By Nesia Mhaka
AGRICULTURAL colleges should partner private companies to ensure they are well-resourced in order to improve the quality of education, particularly farming methods and produce.
Global climate change and water shortages are the major challenges to agricultural sustainability.
This can be addressed through multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional efforts through the use of cutting-edge technologies and forging partnerships across institutions and sectors.
In Zimbabwe, the Government has been working with private institutions in developing the agricultural sector through public-private partnerships (PPPs) in production, processing and marketing dynamic in nature due to continuous change in consumers demand and expectation. An innovative approach is essential to meet the current challenges of agriculture. Currently, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is one of the best-experimented strategies to achieve the specified goals within the time frame and modernize public services and infrastructure in agriculture, health, science and technology, education, infrastructure development and extension. The main reason for the evolution of PPP in various fields is lack of facilities, human resource and time. Through PPP approach, impossibilities are made possible with the contribution of both public and private partners resulting in better economic.
The PPPs have also worked in other sectors such as infrastructural development, health, science and technology and education.
Deputy director in the department of agricultural education and farmers training a Mr Vengai said:
“Agriculture training centres should therefore embrace public-private partnerships to unlock value in their training activities.”
He told a climate-smart agriculture training workshop organised by the Mazowe Veterinary and Shamva Agriculture Training colleges, that through such partnerships, revitalisation of agriculture and the agro-processing value chain, beneficiation and value addition and infrastructure development could be realised.
“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,” Vengai said.
“PPPs bring in private sector management skills and are more efficient in that one entity is charged with the design, construction, operation and financing.
“Private sector partners have often been more realistic in their estimates of time and costs than public agencies.”
Speaking at the same event climate change scientists in the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, said there were more incentives for the private sector and private partners to build a realistic financial model that takes into account all the costs and revenue flows in agriculture training institution.
“The main advantage that PPPs have comes from the lowering of the total cost and improved project risk management,” said one of the officials.
“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 wanted to partner with the private sector but did 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.
“You can look at our animals here they are very few because we have a limited space to accommodate them. We are appealing for the government to do something about it.”