Platinum giant Zimplats has invested US $ 540 000, in the refurbishment of a milking parlour facility and construction of support facilities at Gwebi Agricultural College.
Speaking during the commissioning ceremony at Gwebi yesterday, Zimplats Chief Executive Officer Alex Mhembere said the rationale for the investment was that the Gwebi Agricultural College milking parlour will empower the learning institution to produce students who meet current industry standards and requirements.
“The facility will also provide a source of income for the college through access to training on herd health and on the concept of commercializing rural cattle. This aligns with our strategy of creating shared value and investing in a better future for our key stakeholders.
“l am pleased to advise that the investment is already bearing fruit. At the time when Zimplats made the decision to embark on the project to renovate and upgrade the dairy facilities at Gwebi Agricultural College, the milking parlour had the capacity to accommodate 41 cows.
“There were 13 producing milk for consumption at the college by students and staff and for sale to the surrounding community. We upgraded the milking parlour by installing a 16 point milking machine which has the capacity to milk 64 cows per hour and 300 cows per session.
“The project scope also included the replacement of the existing 1500 litre milk tank with a 5000-litre milk tank. An automatic nipple drinker system was installed resulting in improved hygiene, greater efficiency and disease control in the calf house.
“A resting shed and holding area were constructed to provide cows with facilities for resting and feeding and thereby reducing heat stress which is essential for dairy cows.
“To ensure water and power availability, which are vital to a dairy project, two boreholes were sunk and equipped to provide facilities for backup power and water. Other aspects of the scope of work included an upgrade of ablution facilities, the spray race and milk collection facility as well as fencing the whole project area,” he said.
In her acceptance speech, the Gwebi Agricultural College Principal Shupikai Sibanda said the initiative will benefit the community and Zimbabwe at large.
“As Gwebi Agricultural College we are both honoured and humbled to benefit from the refurbishment of our dairy to a 16 point milking parlour. Gwebi is grateful for the contribution both by Zimplats and Palmline which they both extended towards student training.
“Gwebi Agricultural College has started the journey of an Agricultural Centre of Excellence since dairy is our niche area. The students and the community and in fact the whole country Zimbabwe will benefit from this dairy partnership as they get hands-on experience.
“Our training has been made easier as we dovetail the research, innovation and entrepreneurship pillars. We are confident to churn out cadres knowledgeable in dairy. The courses include Fundamentals of Dairy Production, Applied Dairy Production and Dairy Value Addition,” she said.
In his speech read by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Dr Anxious Masuka during the commissioning of the dairy parlour project, Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Retired General Constantino Chiwenga said the whole of Mashonaland West province and Zimbabwe will benefit from this partnership between Zimplats and Gwebi Agricultural College, through skills development.
“This partnership resonates well with the recently launched curriculum, Agricultural Education for Development 5.0, where research, innovation and entrepreneurship pillars are key to the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, as propounded in the National Development Strategy 1.
“Today’s event is, therefore, a testament to that commitment by Zimplats, as the upgraded milking facility is set to support the dairy project launched by His Excellency, by providing temporary milking facilities for the dairy herd, while construction of the permanent dairy facility is underway.
“The upgrading project will also enhance Gwebi Agricultural College’s ability to generate revenue from the upgraded facilities, through increased commercial milk sales. It is gratifying to note that the college will also supply neighbouring communities with milk,” he said.
Last year Zimplats launched an US $15 million programme to support livestock production in the community.