The Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) led the way in 2014 when it called for partners with which to structure joint ventures to revive its estates in some parts of the country.
At that time, the properties were largely idle as the Government entity lacked resources to get them working. It selected private companies who brought in financial resources and equipment to Antelope, Nandi, Katiyo, Fair Acres, Doreen’s Pride and Middle Sabi among the estates. Within a year or two of the signing and execution of the partnerships, the farms were back thriving as they used to in the early 1980s.
The success at the Arda estates motivated the Government to urge struggling farmers, especially those who benefited under the fast track land reform and redistribution programme to seek partners. Many of them were poorly resourced thus could not put their land to productive use. But to ensure that the landowners were not prejudiced and that the land reform and redistribution programme is not compromised, the Government ordered them to seek its authority before they entered into any agreements.
We are seeing the benefits of this approach at Artherstone Irrigation Scheme in Insiza District. A partnership the landowners have with investors from South Africa has boosted output at the property.
From producing barely enough for household consumption a few years ago, the landowners are now producing a wide range of crops, among them maize and wheat. They and their partner are now growing special crops such as lucerne. Not only that, they have grown up the value chain to acquire milling machines so they are now milling the maize they grow.
Instead of just selling maize to their nearest Grain Marketing Depot and earning the normal producer prices per tonne, they are milling it and selling at prices far higher than they could have earned if they remained as cultivators.
As we report elsewhere today, the scheme, now trading as CapeZim, has 50 hectares under irrigation.
Mr Zenzo Jele, one of the farmers, said they started milling maize in May, producing 10kg bags of mealie-meal. They have created more jobs – four people had been employed to operate the milling plant with scope for more as the business grows.
“As farmers operating at Artherstone Irrigation Scheme we have expanded our operations and we are now milling mealie-meal that we are producing at the irrigation scheme. We started milling in May at our milling plant at West Nicholson business centre. Our partner CapeZim assisted us with milling machines. For mealie-meal we have two machines,” he said.
“We also have three machines at the plant which we will soon use to process lucerne. We are processing 10kg bags of mealie-meal which we are selling to community members and also businesspeople in the area. We will soon be introducing 20kg and 50kg bags as well.”
The partnership has really been transformative – farmers who just a few years ago struggled to grow enough food for household consumption are now not only milling the maize they grow but also growing and milling stockfeed! Stockfeed!
We are indeed happy for them, and happier too that the Government came up with this innovative strategy that has unlocked value from the land without undoing the revolutionary land reform and redistribution programme.
We also commend the investors for answering the call to come over to pour their money into this business. We are sure that they are getting the return they want from their investment.
CapeZim has up to 800ha of irrigable land, which is enormous. We want them to continue growing their enterprise for them to put all that land under crop while expanding their value addition capacities. This earns them more money, they contribute to national food security and, more broadly, national development.
Let the success at Artherstone be replicated at other communal irrigation schemes. Perhaps this model is much more impactful than the Arda one because the benefits go directly to the farmers who are also partners on the ground.