Sunday Mail Correspondent
CHIMANIMANI is a mystical area famous for its lush green vegetation and rolling mountain ranges.
In 2019, the district made international headlines when one of the worst natural disasters hit the mountainous district, leaving a trail of destruction.
However, today it is evolving as an economic hub for agricultural development.
Locals seem to have unlocked the secret to success, and farmers from Cashel Valley have every reason to celebrate.
The Michigan pea bean, also known as navy bean, is changing lives.
Most farmers, who are currently working with agronomists, Agritex and other agro-business stakeholders, are using a collaborative team approach to keep up with demand for the crop.
The bustling activities have breathed life into communities.
“We are very happy with this project. We are grateful with the support we are getting from the authorities,” said Mr Takemore Simango, one of the project’s beneficiaries.
The outgrowers scheme, which is targeting 500 farmers, has also helped address a bigger national problem as Cashel Valley — a division of Cairns Foods — guarantees a market for the beans and other produce.
Initially, in 2020, the project targeted 100 hectares, which were envisaged to grow to 700ha.
“Advancement in this project will secure plant-based raw materials for the business from Chimanimani and Manicaland region at large,” said Mr Michael Mugani, the head of agronomy at Cashel Valley.
Another agronomist, Mr Quinton Nyagwande, said Cashel Valley’s partnership with farmers will ensure continuous supply of raw materials and save the much-needed foreign currency.
“We will continue to have these kind of partnerships and outgrower schemes with farmers as they are a form of empowerment, and as an organisation, we are also assured of constant availability of our raw materials, saving foreign currency as we won’t be importing raw materials such as Michigan pea beans,” he said.
Cashel Valley recently hosted its first field day and rewarded top growers from the previous season.
The company continues to work closely with farmers.
To date, about 40 houses have been constructed for some of the Cyclone Idai victims, while canals in irrigation schemes benefiting more than 250 farmers have been rehabilitated.
Smallholder farmers believe the new initiative has provided them a new and welcome source of livelihood.
“We appreciate what Cashel Valley is doing in our community, especially the construction of houses for Cyclone Idai victims as well as rehabilitating our irrigation schemes. This has made life easy for us farmers and we are happy with the contract farming they have introduced,” said Peter Chieza, a village head from Bomoni Irrigation Scheme.
“We didn’t have capital or a reliable market. We are so excited that we now grow our horticulture produce knowing that there is a ready market at Cashel Valley,” added Mrs Rena Chareya-Chinowawa.
The Government, through National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1), is working on stimulating agricultural production to ensure 80 percent of industry’s raw material needs are met from local inputs.
In terms of NDS 1, agriculture will be centred on six pillars of transformation such as food security and import substitution, increased and diversified exports, value addition and beneficiation, job creation and improved incomes for farmers.
Cashel Valley produces a wide range of ready-to-serve fruit and vegetables.
It gets its name from Cash Village, which is nestled in the rich and scenic Chimanimani in the Eastern Highlands.