In 1981 the Commercial Oilseeds Producers’ Association (COPA) of the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) made the decision to buy an undeveloped property on the outskirts of Harare in order to create a research base for their members. Very soon afterwards they invited the Commercial Grain Producers’ Association (CGPA) to join their endeavours and the Agricultural Research Trust (ART) was created.
The Trust was reinforced with the injection of additional capital by the Zimbabwe Cereals Producers’ Association (ZCPA) in 1983.
More recently the Cattle Producers’ Association (CPA) contributed funding that gave them a seat on the Board of Management. The Trust was officially opened by the Minister of Agriculture the Honourable Denis Norman, M.P. in March 1983.
The Trust’s objectives as laid down in the original Trust Deed are inter alia to :
Initially the Trust relied on financial support from founding commodity associations, in 1993 the Trust became fully independent and charges for all its services on a full cost recovery basis, making it a fully independent agricultural research and extension institute with a financial budget designed to cover recurring operational overheads, planned capital replacement and capital development costs.
The Trust is a non profit making institution and all proceeds are utilised to further develop the Trust. This policy has enabled the Trust to remain self financing in extremely adverse circumstances and pursue it mandate of providing world class excellence to Zimbabwe.
The Trust employs a Director, with a senior management team consisting of a Farm Manager, Research Manager, and Research Officer. They are supported by two research technicians and 85 junior staff who are all housed on the Trust Farm.
A non-executive Board of Trustees consisting of 5 prominent farmers hold the top position and they charge the Board of Management with all executive decisions. The Board of Management consists of an independent chairman, two independent members and the incumbent chairmen (or their nominees) of the four Commodity Associations who originally invested into the Trust. They are all farmers. The Director is an ex officio member of the Board of Management, which meets at least 6 times a year.
In the past there was close formal liaison between the staff of ART and the Technical team of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) who were responsible for generating research projects in consultation with their farmer members through the Commodity executives and the Commodity Council of the CFU. This liaison still exists; however, the Trust is increasingly undertaking research projects specifically for major Seed Houses and Independently funded research is not receiving the attention that it should.
The Trust regularly has University and Agricultural College under graduates undergoing practical hands-on training on attachment for various periods.
The Trust farm at 1,480m a.m.s.l. with a mean annual rainfall of 750 mm is situated 18km due North of Harare and its southern boundary is contiguous with Harare City. Land area is 560 ha, of which 250ha is arable.
There is a 67ha field laboratory and the balance of the area is taken up for commercial crop production. The field laboratory is served by a water ring main to provide full irrigation and there is sufficient water to irrigate in addition 30ha of full-season winter cover crops and supplement some 100ha of Summer grain crop.
There is a veld grazing area of 320 paddocked hectares and 14 ha of irrigated fertilised pasture. The farm runs a 400 head beef unit with an off take of 200 head of finished steers per year. There is also a 144 sow pig unit producing 2,550 baconers per year. The Unit Practices Artificial Insemination in order to achieve optimum genetics.
Irrigation is supplied by double pumping from boreholes into overnight storage reservoirs and then on to the land by sprinklers. The soils are all heavy red clay derived from epidiorite and greenstone schist. Subsurface water yield and soil fertility are therefore very good.