Fungai Lupande Mashonaland Central Bureau
Small-scale farmers in Muzarabani are utilising portions of land to maximise horticultural production, mainly focusing on tomatoes to earn extra income following a successful summer cropping season this year.
Tomato production thrives in warm temperatures making Muzarabani’s agro-ecological zone ideal. This has prompted Ward 18 councillor Norman Chizeya to start production of tomatoes along Musengezi River.
Clr Chizeya said maximising agriculture production on small pieces of land produces higher yields.
He teamed up with a tomato farmer Mr Arthur Tapedza to start a self-funded pilot project of 500 000 plants of tomatoes on a one-hectare plot in June.
“We experience hot temperatures in Muzarabani which is ideal for tomato production. We have land and water, but we lack expertise and I decided to invite Mr Tapedza, who is a tomato farmer in Centenary, to start a pilot project,” said Clr Chizeya.
“Mr Tapedza was doing small-scale tomato farming in his village and at this demo plot, all nearby farmers are coming to learn how to produce tomatoes and this has resulted in several tomato plots being established in this area.
“We don’t want the community to rely only on summer crops, but to continue farming all year round to earn extra income.”
The project is employing over 20 people.
One of the challenges was that they were using a lot of diesel to pump water from Musengezi River.
“Our hope is to harness the abundant sun we have here to venture into solar-powered irrigation schemes. Musengezi is a perennial river and we want to utilise small pieces of land to boost agriculture production in Muzarabani.
The target was to recruit more farmers by next year to boost production, especially of the Rio Grande variety which yielded one kilogramme per plant.
“This variety is matures to a deep red colour and is perfect for making tomato paste, juice and sauce. This variety doesn’t need tying up making it less labour intensive,” he said.
“Agriculture extension workers visit to advise and assist us. This is a self-funded project and our major challenge is the market,” said Clr Chizeya.
They were hiring vehicle to transport produce to Harare where they waited until it was sold out.
“What we want is machinery to do value addition to the tomatoes. We can also dry them so that we don’t chase the market since tomatoes are perishable.”
Mr Tapedza and his wife Rosemary are staying in a makeshift shelter after relocating from Mutwa Village in Ward 25.
They are expecting to start harvesting in September this year.
“Our crop is thriving and we expect a larger yield of one kilogramme per plant. We want to expand this project,” he said.