Zimbabwean young farmers lead the charge in agriculture as new financing and land policies help to spark interest and innovation

Audrey Simango: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 August 2021:

Agriculture in Zimbabwe is on an upswing and young people are the driving force. For example, the country is set to harvest 2.8 million tons of maize this year, triple the 2020 harvest, and making it the highest output in 20 years.

The anticipated 2021 bumper harvest should finally ensure food surplus in Zimbabwe, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in June. Just a year ago, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) doled out $86.9 million to boost food security in the country.

About 57 per cent of Zimbabwean women between ages 20 and 31 and 47 per cent of men in the same age bracket are growing fruits such as mangoes, involved in rearing livestock such as the prolific breeders Boer goats, and cultivating tobacco, corn and so on.

President Emerson Mnangagwa who took over the reins of government in November 2017 has adopted policies to attract the young and educated to farming while at the same time luring back many white farmers who had relocated to Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom following the seizure of their land about two decades ago.

(Photo: Terrence Maphosa with his maize harvest)

The president pledged to provide 99-year land leases to white farmers and guaranteed the security of those willing to return home. Returning white farmers are partnering with their black counterparts, including young black farmers, leading to a healthy exchange of capital, skills and machinery.

Also, Zimbabwe’s structural economic transformation, from traditional office and factory jobs to informal entrepreneurship, is now extended to the agricultural sector, catching the attention of young farmers.

(Photo: Terrence Maphosa with his poultry. Photo Credit: Terrence Maphosa)

“We are seeing a pro-youth farmer’s mindset in government, which sends positive signals,” says Gift Mawacha, an agricultural historian at Chimanimani High School in east Zimbabwe, the country´s most fertile farm belt.  “And the youth are saying ‘hey, we are jobless but there´s money in growing potatoes and flowers.’”

“My generation trained as accountants and social workers. Universities in Zimbabwe graduate thousands of students annually, but there is only a handful of civil service or corporate jobs for the unemployed,” says Itai Sedze, 29, a sociologist who is now engaging in maize farming.

Conservation agriculture

The government’s pro-farming mindset is anchored in a programme called “Pfumvudza” (meaning “Master Farmers’ Revolution”) through which it provides financing subsidies to young farmers.

Researcher Eddy Maseya describes Pfumvudza as a climate-proof concept that leverages “conservation farming techniques to make the most of small pieces of land.”

Backed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Pfumvudza consists of “minimum soil disturbance or tillage; having permanent soil cover by using organic mulch and using crop rotations and intercropping cover crops with main crops,” according to The Future Agricultures Consortium, an alliance of research organisations seeking to improve agriculture in Africa.

Zimbabwean youth are latching on to this sustainable farming concept.

For example, Prosper Bvunzawabaya, 31, returned to Zimbabwe to grow fruits after bagging a graduate degree in finance from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, USA.

He says: “My land is limited in size, but I exploit each hectare to its furthest potential.” He started by planting 300 mango trees but hopes to reach his goal of 5,000 trees soon. “I’m using a mango species called Tommy Atkins. That fruit species is in hot demand abroad. I made moves to grow mangoes after I read about avocado farming in New Zealand.”

Prosper currently has seven employees two of whom are college graduates.

Other young farmers are applying innovative techniques in farming. Milton Zhakata, 36, is mixing Boer goats, originally from neighbouring South Africa, with native goats.

(Photo: John Muchenje in his vegetable farm. Photo Credit: John Muchenje)

“The Boer goat meat is a money-printing machine,” he enthuses. Milton, who has six employees, started with 25 goats and is now nearing 300. Boer goats can weigh up to 200kg each.

“Boer goats are prolific breeders. The mother has a superb nurturing ability to ensure few offspring die,” says Pardon Mundeta, a retired agronomist. “They birth twins, triplets, quads.”

Itai credits social media for popularizing farming to young people. “Social media came and we began to see inspirational Twitter and Instagram photos of young Zimbabwean graduates in the mud, in boots, farming acres of onions, tomatoes and carrots, and making brisk business,” he says.

Challenges

Not all young farmers have access to financing, though. Those without land deeds have difficulty getting financial support, and banks and insurance companies are reluctant to fill the gap. When financing is available for this group, interest rates are usually very high.

A 2020 study by Tobacco Control, which conducts tobacco research, found that about 60 per cent of Zimbabwean tobacco farmers were in debt.

“Without title deeds, it is next to impossible to access prime banking finance,” laments Prosper.

Zimbabwean farmers generally also face punitive weather droughts, outbreaks of livestock diseases and local supermarkets’ preference for foreign produce.

In addition, without adequate storage facilities, an oversupply of produce, especially fruits and vegetables, often knock down prices, significantly reducing earnings for farmers.

Despite these hurdles, young Zimbabwean farmers believe they are making progress. “Our agriculture is rising, and the youth are leading it this time. The future is definitely bright,” says Prosper.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

 

3 Comments

  1. Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Ghana and and one or two other African countries whose leaders have all their screws in the proper places are the ones President Bio should be associating himself with. These leaders understand African problems because they are Africans – even the air they breath is African. A Bio that understands a little Economics would get his foreign representatives who are closest to these countries to find out details of the policies which they are applying to lift their respective countries out of poverty and to become self-reliant, particularly in feeding themselves. This should take the place of hiring private jets (at enormous cost to a poor nation) to roam around the world on fruitless missions.

    There was a time when Zimbabwe was regarded as the bread basket of Southern Africa. The indications are that President Emerson Munagagwa is determined to regain that lost glory, due in part to the wrong headed policies of the late President Robert Mugabe. Maada Bio, you need to learn from those that are closest to you and look like you, rather than from those in far flung places who treat you like child by putting on a nice diplomatic face when you face them, but swing their foot at you in a kicking motion when your back faces them. Wise up my old pal.

  2. The youths of today are the future of Africa. The continent has the youngest population in the world. With the fourth industrial revolution in progress,and access to information technology made simple, whether is in villages , or towns and cities, any future developments in agriculture, or access to materials, and markets should be seen as a bonus for the present generation.

    Rice, Maize, cattle, chicken , pig farming, it all depends on which career you want to pursue. The good news the barriers our parents and grandparents faced in the old days have come tumbling down. And the net effects has been an upwards trajectory. When it comes to developments and new adopting new ideas, With the right government policies,every thing is possible. And even more encouraging, with the right skill sets,education and training, and government programs to help small scale farmers in place, and support from the local communities, and friendly banks, success or failure will all depend on the individual famers, and the efforts you put into work. Yes there are still some hard to reach places that continue to farm in the old ways.like hoes and clearing of bushes with cutlasses, but eventually we will moved away from such farming practices. Ox ploughing and back breaking jobs in paddy fields is not an appealing career option for many of our young. Not anymore. The influx of Chinese farmers in some of this southern African countries, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have opened the doors to many young African farmers, that have raise the stake for what is possible with right farming techniques. Suddenly everyone realised there is money to be made. You just have to have the support and patience to recalibrate your thoughts about what it means to be a famer. Thanks to modern technological innovation, we can produce most of our farm products, with out endangering our wellbeing.The word famer is no more seen as a dirty word. Rather as proud citizens contributing in their own little way to their country’s food security.

    In Zimbabwean, where tobacco farmers are making huge margins of profits after decades of weak demands from the tobacco industry, and the effects of fomer President Robert Mugabe’s land redistribution programme, suddenly this upward swing of Zimbabweans farm produce should be welcomed. Training and mentoring, and encouraging would be young farmers will go a long way to reduce the chronic youth unemployment that the country have suffered for long periods of time will soon be a thing of the past.

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