Chipinge farmers' cry for govt help

CHIPINGE – The south-eastern parts of Zimbabwe have always been an oasis of agricultural activity from the sugar cane estates of Triangle, Hippo Valley, Mkwasine and parts of Chisumbanje to macadamia farms in Upper Chipinge.

The farmers in Upper Chipinge who persevered against adversity following resettlement, have called on government to capacitate them through their inclusion into the Command Agriculture programmes, arguing they contribute significantly to the national fiscus.

Government has since launched Command Agriculture, Command Livestock and Command Fisheries among others.

The establishment of a plant to facilitate value addition will also go a long way in maximising their export earnings as, currently, they are being compelled to meet shipping costs for export of the raw product from which only 60 percent will be extracted.

Macadamia is one of the plant species that dominate this part of the region (also referred to as matunhu) that is renowned for sustaining the timber industry in Zimbabwe, the others being avocado pears, the forestry family of wattle, pine and gum, as well as bananas and tea.

The macadamia plant is renowned for its ability to produce a total of 27 products which range from cooking oil, facial cosmetics, soap, detergents, rubber, stock feeds right up to motor vehicle interiors and furniture. The nuts can also be roasted, packaged and consumed as a delicate snack rich in cholesterol.

With the advent of land reform, farmers settled in this south-eastern part of the country were faced with a myriad challenges, chief among them a market for their produce.

According to Prosper Chibaya the proprietor of Magistics Private Ltd, proprietors of Gangara 2 Farm which has a complement of 130 general workers, so irked by their dismissal were the former settlers that they influenced and ensured all the existing markets were blocked.

“We were settled here in 2004, but it had to take us up to 2010 to convince buyers to accept our stock. All these years they were, upon influence from their former clients, made to believe we were selling stolen property,” she told journalists on a media tour to the farm recently.

The 268ha Gangara 2 Farm, which is arguably the biggest producer of macadamia in the area, has 65ha of the plant, from which 5 tonnes per ha (comprising 320 plants) of the crop are harvested per annum.

Owing to frustration, most resettled black farmers uprooted the plantations and converted the land to other uses such as maize production while a handful (who number up to 100) persevered. They have since formed an association which they use as a platform to meet and share ideas about numerous issues affecting their work and these include sourcing finances, markets, technical knowledge and security.

“We are thrilled that the markets have finally opened up and we have been embraced in a number of foreign countries which include China, South Africa, Malaysia, Australia and Vietnam, among others. We are now even conducting sales on site and this has alleviated the burden on transport to a great extent.

“While it is fact that government desires foreign currency, macadamia — just like tobacco — is one area where hard currency can be sourced because we sell in US dollar. However, it becomes prudent that the hen that lays the golden eggs be given good care and by this we imply that government ought to reciprocate our efforts by making our working environment more conducive so that we can bring in more.

“Most of the chemicals we need and the equipment such as crackers and cold rooms are bought outside the country, hence we need an allocation for such. But an even better solution would be building a plant here in Chipinge where we are able to do most of the processing and only take the final products out. That way we cut expenses by more than half,” one lady by the name Chibaya said.

So closed and exclusive to the white farming community was the growth and export of macadamia that even the department of Agriculture and Rural Extension (Arex) were not privy to the farmers’ operations.

In the early phases of her farming business for instance, Chibaya recounts a traumatising experience where she had to ship back a consignment of 30 tonnes she had exported to Kenya for reasons that it had absorbed too much moisture and was rejected.

To date and owing to better capacitation and the subsequent opening up of the markets, quite a number of black farmers in areas which include Bindura, Marondera, Nyanga, Mutare, Mvurwi and Banket have since revived the operations of the macadamia farms they inherited.

The farmers have also appealed for legislation that effects stiffer penalties to persons convicted of stealing from their farms.

“In Chiredzi, the sugar cane plant is so protected that one cannot even pick up a stick that has fallen from the tractor because doing so makes them face the full wrath of the law.

“Thieves are threatening our operations and unless deterrent sentences are imposed, they will continue to hinder smooth operations at our farms,” said Gangara 2 Farm manager Tafadzwa Chibaya.

The macadamia plant, which takes nine months from flowering to harvesting has a lifespan of 75 years during which a farmer needs to spray at least five times a year.

Comments (1)

One best way government should empower this particular farming co-operation is to give them title deeds with which they can approach banks and imrpove their operations and marketing. Command Agriculture is a scandal, government must not do business but must only enhance and regulate.

Sinyo - 8 October 2018

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