The Minister of State for Manicaland province, Christopher Mushowe has warned villagers in Chipinge not to disrupt the operations of the few remaining white commercial farmers in the province saying this could have disastrous repercussions on Zimbabwe’s already fragile economy.
But he also warned the remaining white commercial farmers that they would be kicked out of their farms if they refused to cooperate with the new order and assist the new black farmers with knowledge and technical assistance.
Mushowe, who was guest of honor at a field day organized by banana producing company, Matanuska, at Chibuwe and Mutema irrigation schemes in Chipinge, said the government wants the few remaining white commercial farmers to work closely with resettled farmers and engage them on out-growers programs.
He said he was impressed by the Matanuska project because villagers will be able to produce and export their goods to foreign markets.
Mushohwe said commercial farmers should back the government’s empowerment initiatives through supporting their neighboring black peasant farmers with knowledge and finance.
The remaining white commercial farmers who are into timber, potato seed, and dairy production, he said, must not be disturbed.
Mushohwe added the country cannot continue to import milk from South Africa, adding Zimbabwe needs to boost production and also export.
Disturbing the remaining commercial farmers’ operations will also affect the economy, he said.
Matanuska, a private firm from Malaysia, assisted Chipinge district farmers on an out-grower program to plant a 60 hectare banana crop which they say has improved the livelihoods of at least 240 families. The families have since 2009 been growing bananas for the Malaysian company which then exports them to meet growing foreign demand.
Mushowe said it would be wise for commercial farmers to help their black counterparts grow through technical expertise and in the process ensuring their produce also finds its way onto the international markets.
Working together, he said, would ensure the commercial farmers get to keep their land.
The provincial minister also appealed to non-governmental organizations to chip in and assist communal farmers to grow good quality crops for the export market.
Mushowe said Zimbabwe’s farming sector would grow if farmers with the ability and expertise worked well with the new black farmers He noted that those who do not heed his call may just live to regret not assisting neighboring communities.
AGRICULTURAL INCOME AND EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT
Matanuska, in partnership with the Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED), has also resuscitated the two communities’ derelict irrigation schemes that had been destroyed by Cyclone Eline in 2000.
This allowed the banana project to come to fruition. Currently over 60 hectares of land is under banana production in both communities, and the farmers are harvesting 60 tonnes of banana from each hectare every nine months for the export market.
The farmers working on the project say they are living better lives now, finding it easy to pay school fees, build better houses and related needs.
A beneficiary, Mathias Chijokwe, says they harvest after every nine months and get an average of $2,500 per farmer, adding to date, they have had three harvests.
Another beneficiary, Agnes Phiri, says she can now afford doing a lot of things she never could afford before the banana project.
Matanuska projects manager, Johannes Makurumidze, said the company intends to empower more farmers by expanding their banana producing capacity.