Shurugwi farmers secure foreign markets
Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
MS Christine Nyathi of Shurugwi contemplated quitting farming and even ventured into shafts at many defunct mining companies in her area.
The mother of two says if it was not for the fear of dying in the tunnels or the general abuse of women artisanal miners, she would have been a regular artisanal miner by now.
She saw no value in continuing to wake up and attending to her garden at Gonye Irrigation Scheme when they didn’t have markets and machinery to make farming a business.
“Life was not easy at our irrigation scheme and several times I contemplated quitting farming for the tunnels and trenches. But as a female miner, it’s not an easy job because of fear of being abused in a field that is male dominated,” she said.
Fortunately for Ms Nyathi and about 400 other farmers in Shurugwi, Unki Mines came to their rescue through a programme called Takura-Anglo Unki Social Development Programme.
Through Takura-Anglo Unki Social Development Programme, TechnoServe – an international non-profit organisation that promotes business solutions in developing countries by linking people to information, capital and markets – was engaged.
TechnoServe is now assisting the community through the provision of irrigation equipment and farming inputs as well as knowledge and skills transfer on how to produce cash crops with a niche on the international market.
About 300 horticulture farmers are benefiting through their irrigation schemes such as Gonye in which Ms Nyathi is a member.
“I am happy for this initiative that is helping me to transform my general lifestyle and that goes for other members who are part of the irrigation schemes in Shurugwi. If they had not come here, I would have been trying my luck at the mines doing artisanal mining. Now look at me, I’m providing essential foodstuffs for the country and the international market as well,” said Ms Nyathi during a tour of the peas field recently.
“We were having challenges on our irrigation scheme as we didn’t have the tools of the trade. I’m sure if you look closely, I’m looking at a great yield to be accrued from this crop. My life has indeed changed and I’m looking for a great outcome from the yield. Hope is what keeps us alive.”
Anglo Unki Mines general manager Mr Walter Nemasase said the programme, which is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility, is aimed at assisting horticulture farmers export and also produce for the local market.
“This programme is our social vision to make a lasting, positive contribution to the communities in which we operate. We achieve this through our Sustainable Mining Plan that seeks to build thriving communities beyond life of mine and creating off-site jobs,” he said.
Mr Nemasase said US$2,2 million had been set aside for the cause.
“Currently we have under horticulture 300 farmers, poultry three groups of 10 members each, livestock (beef) two groups of 26 farmers are participating in livestock beef project,” he said.
According to Mr Givemore Mhlanga, TechnoServe monitoring and evaluation officer, the programme is benefiting mostly villagers in Shurugwi District within the sphere of influence of Anglo Unki Mine.
“We are linking them to the international market and local market, linking them to funders (financiers), technical assistance (training) in good agricultural practices, farming as a business and financial literacy,” he said.
Giving an example of Gonye Irrigation Scheme successes, Mr Mhlanga said the irrigation scheme is majoring in pea production.
“We are assisting Gonye Irrigation Scheme through market access whereby we have linked them to the international market to export their peas, assisted them in growing the peas for the first time in the scheme (this is their second year), and trained them in making farming a business. Farming should change villagers’ lives for the better. There are 29 farmers there who are benefiting and that is changing their livelihoods,” he said.
Mr Mhlanga said they have assisted the irrigation scheme to grow mangetout peas, sugar snap peas, fine beans all for the export market and sugar beans for the local market.
“This is a turnaround strategy for them to earn foreign currency from horticulture crops which they never used to do. This is part of uplifting their livelihood and household economic empowerment.
“This current season, the programme is working on a total of 20 hectares across all schemes and targeting a production target of 60 tonnes,” he said.
Mr Mhlanga said the horticulture programme beneficiaries are Chuni, Shungudzevhu, Taguta, Gonye, Adare and Zananda which are all located in Shurugwi district.
“The programme is also looking forward to incorporating Insukamini and London irrigation schemes in Lower Gweru. Other running programmes, besides horticulture, include poultry projects (in Ward 11, 12, and 14) all in Shurugwi district and livestock projects in Ward 12 and 14 (all in Shurugwi district),” he said.