Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
RURAL horticulture farmers around Victoria Falls are facing challenges in securing a good market for their produce despite being close to the country’s prime tourism hub.
While the Government has championed the rural industrialisation agenda, there have been concerns by farmers who are struggling to break the “closed” tourism market for horticulture produce as the industry relies largely on imports from other cities and outside the country.
In driving rural industrialisation, the Government hopes to capacitate rural areas not only with farming opportunities through irrigation, but also establishment of processing plants to stem rural to urban migration, which saps growth from the African countryside, transferring it to towns and cities.
Rural industrialisation, which hinges on the Second Republic’s devolution policy, involves nurturing agro-processing start-up enterprises in rural areas through financial and technological support via joint venture capital funding and Government agencies.
To address the market challenge, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Richard Moyo, has urged rural farmers to organise themselves into groups and approach the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) for market opportunities.
He was responding to concerns by Chief Shana of Jambezi on Monday who said his subjects had intensified small-scale irrigation at several gardens established for them by Government and partner organisations but have nowhere to sell their produce.
Most farmers said they grow various kinds of vegetables; tomatoes, onions and carrots and also maize but have no market for their produce.
“There are efforts being made by the Government through AMA for farmers in rural areas to be helped with market and processing plants to beneficiate their produce,” said Minister Moyo.
“The idea is such that they should have firms to process their farm produce and take these to the market as processed products.
“So, what farmers should do now is link up with AMA so that they get registered and approach markets as groups for a sustainable supply.”
AMA is mandated with the overall regulation of production, marketing and processing of agricultural products in Zimbabwe.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Matabeleland North chair, Mr Anald Musonza, recently said the industry was ready to buy from local suppliers if they organise themselves into groups to be able to sustain the supplies.
A news crew visited Chief Shana homestead recently where the traditional leader and his wife Mrs Regina Neluswi expressed concern about their subjects’ limited market opportunities.
Chief Shana has a two-hectare garden at his homestead, which has a booming maize, tomato and onions plots.
He said he could not plant the whole piece of land because there is no market for the produce. As a result, they sell to hawkers and vendors in the rural areas, which is not sustainable.
“The whole community from Sidinda has flourishing gardens and most of them are about two hectares. People were helped by different organisations such as World Vision and are benefiting from Government input schemes but face challenges with the market,” said Chief Shana.
“My garden is big but I can’t plant the whole of it. We are also working on opening a bigger garden for the community, which we envisage will enhance food security but we need assurance about the market.
“The community wants to supply the tourism industry but the market is closed.”
Chief Shana’s area covers six wards from Matetsi on the edge of Hwange National Park to Zambezi River. More than 1 200 households in Hwange rural have benefitted from garden schemes. – @ncubeleon