Some Mutare residents are turning a deaf ear to stern warnings from the city council over urban agriculture saying they will continue to plant crops in the city as this is the only way to feed their struggling families.
The residents are adamant that they need to farm in unused portions of land of city land arguing they need to supplement their food.
Most households in the eastern border city are utilizing unserviced and undeveloped open spaces, ignoring warning signs put up by the local authority barring them from using such land.
The council warning signs are inscribed “No cultivation, council land” and city fathers have threatened to slash crops grown in these areas.
Resident Brighton Mugove says council is being insensitive to their needs, adding the city council knows every Zimbabwean is going through a difficult time hence it should allow them to cultivate on open spaces to save them for a while from buying the staple maize meal on the open market.
Another Mutare resident Morgan Nyamuziwa says as long as the land they are cultivating remains undeveloped, residents would be tempted to use it for farming purposes to augment their food stocks.
“Well, the council may say it is their land but we are currently using it for our benefit. We know they have their pegs in some areas but we are of the idea that we should utilise it now before they start developing the land,” says Nyamuziwa.
But a local resident Moreblessing Mubaiwa says people should adhere to council by-laws to avoid a confrontation.
Mubaiwa says the random cultivation on open spaces in the city is leading to serious land degradation as residents are farming on water drainages, road sides, and along streams.
Mutare councilor for ward 17, James Nyamhoka, says the local authority is trying to stop urban agriculture as most of the areas have been bought by private land developers.
Councilor Nyamhoka, however, says the residents may have a reprieve for now as the land developers are likely to move in soon after the end of the rain season when the residents would have already harvested their crops.
“As for now the residents may cultivate these pieces of land but come next season it will be game over as we will be very strict as the new land owners would have moved in,” says Nyamhoka.
Hard-pressed residents find it difficult not to cultivate on undeveloped land as they seek to supplement their food supplies. A 20 liter bucket of maize grain costs at least $10, way beyond the reach of many residents.
Other residents have planted sweet potatoes, a worthwhile substitute for bread, which costs between 50 cents and $1.40 a loaf.