Covid-19 lockdowns drive umalayitsha into thriving farm business
Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
MR Fawulo Dube who was once a cross border transporter (umalayitsha) plying the Botswana- Zimbabwe route is now a major supplier of farm produce in his community in Mangwe District and Plumtree Town following a bold move to leave the transportation business and focus on contributing towards food and nutrition security.
Mr Dube from Mzila Village in Ward 4 produces tomatoes, cabbages, maize and onions in his 2,1-hectare small holder irrigation scheme and his one-hectare garden. During the farming season he also produces traditional grains. He sells his produce to a nearby school, St Francis Secondary School. He also sells to community members and supplies vegetable shops and vendors in his area and in Plumtree Town.
Mr Dube was a cross border transporter for 12 years from 2008 to 2020. In 2016 he started investing in his project. He installed piped water from Ramokgwebana River which is about two kilometres from his homestead. Mr Dube uses a diesel-powered engine to pump the water from the river to a storage tank which is uphill. The water then flows down to the irrigation schemes by gravity. He uses a drip system to water his crops.
Mr Dube left his job as a cross border transporter in 2020 after the borders closed due to Covid-19 and he focused on his farming project which is now his source of livelihood.
At the moment he has maize, cabbage, sugar beans, tomatoes and traditional grains. He invested about US$10 000 to start his project.
“I started my farming project in 2016. At the time I was working as an umalayitsha plying the Zimbabwe-Botswana route using my personal vehicle. Business was good back then but I decided to start another project and not rely on one source of income. I opened up two small irrigation projects and I employed some people who were running them while I continued with my job. I used to come home every weekend to supervise the farming project,” he said.
“In 2020 when the borders closed I stopped operating as a cross border transporter and I focused on my farming project. It’s now my main source of income and it has helped me to put my children through school.”
Mr Dube said he employs three workers. He said although he was working as a cross border transporter he has always had a passion for farming. His parents were farmers.
Mr Dube specialises in producing tomatoes, cabbages and onions. He said tomatoes were the best seller. In a year he can realise about R40 000 profits from selling tomatoes, if the crop performs well. He can realise about R30 000 profit from selling cabbages in a good year. Mr Dube plants his tomatoes and cabbages three times in a year.
“I ensure that I prepare my land well before I plant the next crop in order to ensure that my crops perform well. I use cow and goat manure because it’s organic. I first spray the soil before planting, so that I can fight pests. I also practice crop rotation so that the soil retains its fertility. I use a greenhouse for producing my tomatoes so they can perform well The education which I have been getting from Agritex extension officers has helped to boost production,” he said.
He uses the vehicle that he used for his cross-border transportation business to deliver produce to customers.
Mr Dube said he took advantage of the abundant water at Ramokgwebana River to secure the livelihood for his family.
He said he ensures that he invests time in producing the best crop in order to satisfy his clients. Mr Dube said it is important for people to find alternative means on income to ensure that they can sustain their families. He said farming was a good option as it mainly requires use of natural resources which are God-given.
“I now see how important it was for me to start this farming project. It was going to be difficult for me invest when my cross border transportation business collapsed because I would have run out of funds. I was going to salvage the little money I had to feed my family during the difficult Covid-19 peak period. I have developed a strong clientele base and I continue to look for more customers. I want to become a leading supplier of farm produce in the district,” he said.
Ward 4 councillor Sindisiwe Nleya said Mr Dube is one of the villagers who have made good use of the water found at Ramokgwebana River to contribute towards promoting food and nutrition in the community. She said Mr Dube was operating two viable small irrigation schemes at an individual level. Clr Nleya said Mr Dube’s project has also helped to create employment.
“These are the kind of projects that we want to see community members engaged in under the leadership of the Second Republic. People should make use of the available land and water bodies to become productive, feed their families and create employment,” she said. @DubeMatutu