The sweet scent of self-rule

14 Apr, 2024 - 00:04 0 Views
The sweet scent of self-rule Micheal and Constance Padiwa feed fish in one of their ponds in Hwange, Matabeleland North province

The Sunday Mail

Veronica Gwaze and Theseus Shambare

AT the dawn of Zimbabwe’s independence, a staggering 15,5 million hectares of fertile agricultural land lay in the hands of a mere 6 000 white commercial farmers, who accounted for less than 1 percent of the total population.

In sharp contrast, the small-scale commercial farming sub-sector, comprising 8 500 black farmers, struggled to make ends meet with a mere 1,4 million hectares in drier agro-ecological regions.

Communal areas, once referred to as tribal trust lands, primarily accommodated peasant farmers in arid regions, mainly Region 5.

The stark inequality in land distribution was one of the major reasons several gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe joined the liberation struggle, which culminated in independence on April 18, 1980.

Patrick Matadi prepares land for winter wheat farming in Lion’s Den, Mashonaland West province

Patrick Matadi prepares land for winter wheat farming in Lion’s Den, Mashonaland West province

Later on, around 2000, the historic land reform programme resulted in the transfer of at least 10 million hectares of land to the black majority.

Today, over 80 percent of Zimbabwe’s agricultural production is carried out by indigenous farmers, both large- and small-scale.

The success stories are contributing to the realisation of Vision 2030, which seeks to foster inclusive economic growth by transforming the country into an industrialised and knowledge-based upper middle-income economy.

Success

In Mashonaland West province, 33-year-old Patrick Matadi stands as testament of the potential unlocked through land reform.

Matadi in his tobacco field

Matadi in his tobacco field

The former farm labourer is making the most of a rented property in Lion’s Den.

He had to work as a labourer on Igava Farm in Marondera to help put food on the table.

Incidentally, Igava was one of the four sprawling white-owned commercial farms that were occupied by people from Svosve communal lands at the turn of the millennium, as they sought to reclaim land that had been stolen by colonial occupiers at the end of the 19th century. The other three are Bruce, Daskop and Homepark farms.

Matadi’s case is a remarkable turnaround in fortune for someone whose family was so poor that they could not afford to pay his school fees.

The youthful farmer is regarded as highly successful.

He pocketed close to US$1 million in last year’s tobacco selling season. He also had 50 hectares of wheat from which he harvested an average of five tonnes per hectare.

This year, despite the vagaries of El Niño and climate change, the farmer, with only 18 days into the tobacco selling season, has already delivered 150 bales to the market.

“I am yet to get papers for the farm, but the opportunity was brought about by the fact that the owner got it under the land reform programme. If it was owned by a white person, I was not going to be able to achieve this,” he told The Sunday Mail Society in an interview.

“This year, we had the challenge of excessive heat due to El Niño; however, through the irrigation investment I did, I am expecting to get something big. I am delivering batches of 50 bales per week.

“So far, I have sold 50 bales at an average price of US$3,50 per kilogramme, with the highest prices ranging between US$5,30 and U$5,60.”

Apart from tobacco, the rising farmer is also harvesting his 100 hectares of irrigated maize.

At the same time, he is currently doing land preparations for winter wheat farming on more than 100 hectares.

His exploits recently attracted the attention of renowned businessman Ken Sharpe on his podcast, who wanted to understand more about his operations.

Matadi employs 50 full-time workers and during the peak tobacco harvesting time, he hires an additional 50 part-time employees.

The country is targeting to achieve tobacco output of at least 300 million kg per annum. In the past year, the figure stood at 296,1 million kg, the highest-ever output in the history of local tobacco production.

The country also achieved a new record in wheat production after topping 468 000 tonnes, which is 108 000 tonnes above the minimum of 360 000 tonnes of national consumption.

“The land reform programme was a turning point in my life. That is when I realised what independence means.

“For two decades, in an independent Zimbabwe, we were still tenants on our land. We were still seeking employment from white farmers who were occupying our land,” said Monica Chinamasa, a farmer who has also thrived since the land reform programme.

She operates from Headlands and has been smashing agricultural records since 2000.

The farmer is currently delivering an average of 100 tobacco bales weekly since the opening of the auction floors this year.

She has successfully cultivated 50 hectares of tobacco, 40 hectares of maize, 40 hectares of soya beans and 20 hectares of sunflower.

“Initially, we encountered some setbacks due to inexperience. However, the Government, particularly the Second Republic, has assisted us through various initiatives . . .

“I have employed graduates with deep agricultural knowledge. When my son, Tinotenda, graduated in finance, we integrated him as our finance manager and his sister, who did marketing, eventually became our marketing person,” she added.

In total, there are at least 120 full-time employees on her farm.

Turning lemons into lemonade

The Government has successfully turned drier regions into green belts through intensive dam construction projects.

This has also resulted in some people venturing into thriving fish farming projects.

Michael Padiwa and his wife Constance, of Dick village in Hwange, Matabeleland North province, have embraced aquaculture.

The couple drilled a 60-metre-deep borehole, which is the major source of water for the fishpond.

“When the Government launched the Presidential Community Fisheries Scheme, supplying free fingerlings countrywide, we quickly engaged the authorities and established five fishponds that measure 20 metres by 10 metres. Since then, we managed to have our initial harvest and our average weight was 400g,” revealed Mrs Padiwa.

Each of their fishponds has the capacity to hold up to 2 000 fish.

With current market prices ranging between US$2,50 and US$4 per kg, it is clear the couple is set to make good sums  of money per cycle.

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