Kudakwashe Gwabanayi Journalist
This mid-February is a bit different from previous ones for Zimbabwe farmers. It marks the restoration of the old order after the ravaging effects of Covid-19 that saw farming activities slow down over the past two years. We have reached the climax of farming in Zimbabwe whilst we are just in the first quarter of the season and there is so much activity everywhere.
Those into open-field farming have started estimating their yields because the important rains have come and gone.
Maize, groundnuts, rapoko, millet, sugar beans , soyabeans, sorghum and any other crop is now at a stage you can easily tell it will reach maturity.
Most tobacco farmers are already harvesting their crop.
Those into horticulture are busy with nurseries so that they can make good money in winter especially with cabbages and onions seedlings starting March.
With schools and universities opening, animal husbandry is actually paying because these are mass consumers. Chickens, pigs, cattle and many other poultry products are in demand.
Exporters are also on their toes looking for growers for peas, butternuts, baby marrow, tender stem broccoli, blueberries, sweet potatoes and many other products.
The full cycle will be ignited when dates for the opening of tobacco auction floors are announced. This will mark the turning of economic wheels in 2022 as it has a downstream effect on all sectors of the economy.
Transporters will realise a boom in business as they take the golden leaf to the markets. The farmers will also travel.
Hardware stores will enjoy brisk business as the farmers, who are known spenders, will be purchasing their wares.
Even the volume of beer consumed in the country’s beer halls and drinking spots will increase drastically.
Con artists will also be on the prowl and farmers are encouraged to be wary of them.
Unfortunately many schemers want to take advantage of farmers and they come in various forms and shapes.
There are those who will take farmers’ produce, promising to pay within a week or so only to disappear into thin air.
This usually happens with fresh-farm producers because there is not much time to think about where to push your produce.
This is why farmers are always encouraged to do market research before planting anything and also secure a buyer for the produce two weeks before harvest.
Then there are those time wasters who will come to farmers offering dubious partnerships and associations because everyone knows that almost every farmer will be cashed up . Or, will be very soon.
The partners may come offering inputs for the next planting slot or even planting machinery and farmers are urged to be on high alert.
Some may offer free transport for moving the grains when harvested and as sweet as it may sound, farmers are urged to keep their focus and stick to their original plan for the year.
Imagine harvesting 60 tonnes of maize, someone else promises to deliver that for you to the Grain Marketing Board, only to let you down at the 11th hour.
In most cases farmers are left desperate because of promises by many people who easily promise them things that they cannot deliver.
One of the biggest culprits to this is the government itself.
Most farmers with good water sources are better off planting wheat in winter. Unfortunately the government-sponsored wheat production programme is always late. Some farmers actually fail to plant in their intended season because of corruption and nepotism.
While the inputs are almost always available, government officials delay distributing them because they will be seeking bribes and kickbacks from farmers.
At the same time, planting with our own resources is futile because wheat is a controlled commodity. The government gazettes the buying prices and in most cases it does not make business sense to plant wheat with our own resources.
Social media has also become a threat to farmers as there are sellers who think that everything is uniform in farming yet in actual fact it is not.
There are some soils that if you apply ammonium nitrate in maize it does not help the crop much. Such soils require urea for one to get a proper harvest. However in most cases you only realise this after wasting time and resources on ammonium nitrate.
The same applies with animal husbandry; there are some areas which experience high temperatures throughout the year like Chivi. The animals in these areas are disease resistant. In the event that they fall sick, it will not be normal diseases that people are usually accustomed to. However, social media veterinarians will prescribe the most common vaccines.
By the time the farmer realises that the disease requires special attention it will be too late. Farmers are encouraged to keep in contact with their local veterinarians instead of getting carried away with social media commentators who are only good at time wasting.
As the year progresses, farmers are encouraged to make wise decisions and stick to them instead of getting carried away by time wasters. Always remember that the farmer’s master plan always works. If it fails then one needs to go back to the original plan. Too many cooks spoil the soup.
- Gwabanayi is a practising journalist and a farmer in his own right. — 0772 865 703 or firstname.lastname@example.org