region have not attempted .DURING the 2017/18 farming season, a farmer from Bubi district took a leap of faith and ventured into a field that most farmers in Matabeleland
Mrs Teresina Sayi-Nyangari (48) saw an opportunity in a field where the majority of people and institutions in Matabeleland region have hardly dared to enter.
She is one of the only two tobacco farmers in Matabeleland region and has never looked back since she started.
Her only experience was from her upbringing as she was born and raised in Masvingo province where her parents were involved in tobacco farming.
Mrs Sayi-Nyangari says she is not just a tobacco farmer, but is also into diversified farming as she crops maize, horticulture and cattle rearing.
She accidentally started farming after failing to get a job in the hospitality and tourism industry and teaching which are her professional qualifications.
A Chronicle news crew on visited Mrs Sayi-Nyangari at her 10- hectare plot at Fairfield Farm in Bubi district where she narrated how her experimental project has turned into a success story.
The mother of four said looking back, she believes it was a blessing in disguise not to have been employed when she was job hunting.
“I got this plot in 2009, since then I have been farming maize and a little bit of horticulture. And in 2017, I decided to diversify into tobacco farming but I had little knowledge of how it is done besides what I observed my parents do as I was growing up,” she said.
“I then decided to go to Headlands in Manicaland province where the community is seriously involved in tobacco farming. I inquired around and I was directed to one of the farmers and when I went to his farm, he was indeed a serious tobacco farmer and his tobacco was visibly a good grade. I engaged him in the company of my husband and he committed to helping me start my tobacco farming on this farm.
“He actually came to the ground and assisted me in planting. From then I have never looked back. This is my third year running farming tobacco. The farmer actually gave us his son who is now assisting us in our farming.”
Mrs Sayi-Nyangari said she started with an investment of about US$500 and has managed to recoup her investment.
She said it takes about four months to plant and harvest tobacco and the news crew found her planting the tobacco seedlings.
“Right now, we are just preparing for the seedlings which normally have to be planted on June, 1 but it’s okay, I’m not too late. I will be nurturing these tobacco seedlings between now and the start of September where I would then plant. I plant in a one-hectare field. So, for that hectare I need 15 000 seedlings, therefore, I need to prepare the three beds of seedlings,” she said.
Mrs Sayi-Nyangari said 15 000 seedlings are meticulously planted on the hectare.
She said while in the past some people in the region have shown interest in farming tobacco, the planting part is what has turned away a lot of them.
“When you tell people that you have to plant 15 000 tobacco seedlings using your hands, that’s where they start drifting back. Some of them even go to the extent of saying this is a Mashonaland thing they can’t do. So, I don’t see a lot of people from this region venturing into tobacco farming. But at the moment, I’m working with one who has shown interest and seems committed. I hope he will not quit along the way,” she said.
Mrs Sayi-Nyangari said tobacco is a serious cash crop.
Government recently revealed that tobacco sales have raked in more than US$400 million since this year’s marketing season started a few months ago.
Mrs Sayi-Nyangari is among the farmers who contributed to the 24 percent rise in tobacco deliveries this year.
She was however shy to reveal how much she got from her tobacco sales, just stating that it enough to provide for her family while also capacitating her to prepare for the future seasons.
Mrs Sayi-Nyangari said tobacco needs to be rain-fed like vegetables such as chomoulier. In the event that it would not have rained for a while, she irrigates her crop to keep it in good shape.
She said from a hectare, a farmer can produce about 24 bales of the crop and she has managed to produce 18 bales, which she believes is good considering Matabeleland’s climate.
Through her hard work and success, Mrs Sayi-Nyangari has belied the stereotype that women are male-dependent.
“I’m not just a farmer, but I can provide for my family. Right now, one of my children is studying in South Africa and I can only do this through being involved in farming,” said Mrs Sayi-Nyangari, who kept a small note book.
She said keeping notes was essential in farming as it helped in planning.
While the news crew was still chatting with Mrs Sayi-Nyangari technicians from the Tobacco Research Board (TRB) arrived to collect soil samples.
The samples will scientifically be tested and results will determine the best suitable tobacco for areas similar to hers.
TRB head plant breeding division, Dr Frank Magama said his institute is there to guide farmers as they venture into tobacco farming.
He said TRB will conduct trials on varieties before making recommendations to farmers on the best crop suitable for various reasons in the country.
“Our philosophy is to find varieties that are suitable for all those farmers in Zimbabwe that are interested in growing tobacco. As you know most of the tobacco is grown in Mashonaland West and Manicaland, these are considered to be the prime regions for tobacco. However, because of profitability, the crop and the importance that it has nationally, there are farmers that are growing tobacco in areas that are considered to be marginal. So, our quest here in Matabeleland is to find varieties that are suitable and the agronomic inputs that are needed,” said Dr Magama.
“We also want them to be empowered on how tobacco is grown. You can produce tobacco in Matabeleland and anywhere in the country where farmers wish to grow tobacco. We will advise on the inputs, fertilizers, chemicals and advise on the best input that is needed for Matabeleland region to be a success also in tobacco farming in Zimbabwe.”
He said while Bubi has been their first area to conduct soil sampling, they have done the same in Midlands, Lower Gweru area. Tt was essential to have science led farming as it can improve productivity.
Als, on site was Bubi Agritex specialist Mr Bhekilizwe Ncube who praised Mrs Sayi-Nyangari’s fortitude.
He said Mrs Sayi-Nyangari’s farm could be used as a centre of excellence where aspiring tobacco farmers can come and learn.
“This is something to be proud of to see a woman being courageous and venturing into the field of unknown. She needs all the support, be it technical or material to scale up her operations,” he said.