Netherlands push to revive horticulture

HARARE - Netherlands has put plans in motion to establish model horticulture farms in Zimbabwe as a way of reviving the lucrative sector.

The southern African country used to have a vibrant horticultural industry, but it was decimated by former president Robert Mugabe’s chaotic land reform exercise in the early 2000s that was aimed at addressing colonial land imbalances.

Carel van Oosterzee, an expert with Dutch consultancy firm PUM, said scoping and planning exercises are currently underway to establish model farms in Zimbabwe where best practice horticulture and shipping methods can be demonstrated.

“Zimbabwe has a lot of potential and a great climate for growing crops which allows you to supply certain produce even when it is out of season in Europe. This gives us confidence that the model will be successful in Zimbabwe and we will be able to get great results from it,” he said.

Acting under a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between PUM and ZimTrade, the parties carried out a scoping exercise in August to determine how Zimbabwean fresh produce exporters can move from air to sea freight by developing local cold chain capacity.

It was agreed that creating “Best Model Farms” to demonstrate best practice cold chain management to local producers would be a critical first step.

Moreover, by leveraging both local and international expertise, these locations could also be used to promote best practice horticulture methods including seed selection, perfect cultivation techniques, post-harvest mechanisms, correct certifications among other topics.

With extensive networks and knowledge of Zimbabwe’s horticulture producers, ZimTrade is playing a facilitatory role in identifying possible locations for at least two model farms.

To ensure the model farms are successful, farmers will go through capacity building and training in a range of methods and certification requirements. PUM will also assist in the setting up of infrastructure and give technical advice on logistics, cold chain management and how to ensure a good harvest.

The experts are currently undertaking visits to selected farms in Chinhoyi, Chegutu, Marondera and Gweru. — The Financial Gazette

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