Harare police and the city council announced last week that it would ban all urban farming beginning with the next ploughing season. Shortly thereafter, however, the statement was countered by provincial administrator Musavaya Reza, who declared that the ban only applies to individuals cultivating stream banks, or prohibited areas. Families who rely solely on urban farming for food and income welcomed this second announcement.
Budiriro resident Godfrey Chembwa, along with the assistance of his wife and five children, said he has been cultivating his two-acre plot of land for the past ten years and his harvests have included maize, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and sugar cane harvests.
The 50-year old said he was very concerned when he heard initial reports outlining authorities' plans to ban all urban farming, explaining that he viewed the pending move as an additional setback that would further threaten his loved ones. Mr. Chembwa said that the current shortages are forcing many Harare residents -- including those living in more affluent neighborhoods -- to practice urban farming.
“This is a sad issue, really sad because it concerns every person who abides in the towns. It's not only people in the high density suburbs who are doing this urban farming, even in the low density suburbs,” said Mr. Chembwa.
In expressing his confusion over the different announcements made last week, Mr. Chembwa said that he prefers to have regulations (particularly laws governing agriculture) made clear to him from the start. He was perplexed by the initial announcement, as he felt that the Zimbabwean government has always encouraged citizens to find ways to sustain themselves.
“They encouraged us, they told us man should look after his own family,” stated Mr. Chembwa. “If you have got a plot, cultivate it so that you will be self-sufficient.”
Mr. Chembwa further acknowledged that he was upset after hearing the initial statement. He explained that many of his neighbors are battling because they have not received maize from the Grain Marketing Board, adding that they are left with no choice but to be inventive in order to take care of themselves.
Mr. Reza has urged members of the public to continue growing vegetables in spaces left by demolished buildings.