Smallholder farmers in Plumtree diversify to high value crops

Source: Smallholder farmers in Plumtree diversify to high value crops | The Sunday News

Smallholder farmers in Plumtree diversify to high value crops
Members of Somnene Irrigation Scheme in Bulilima, Matabeleland South

Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Correspondent
IN a first for Matabeleland South, more than 30 farmers in Bulilima District are on the verge of planting garlic and other high value crops supported by agro-technicians from Imbewu Family agro-company.

The farming project is expected to get a financial boost from leading banking institution First Mutual Bank and negotiations are said to be almost done in order to kick-start the projects. This is part of a nationwide farmer capacitation drive done by Imbewu Family with the aim of changing farmers’ perspective on high value cash crops that include garlic. Imbewu Family is run by three young Bulawayo-based farmers.

Through its strategic partnership with banking institutions, the company made a bold move to lure First Mutual Bank into financing a thriving farming enterprise at Mahabangome community lands. Close to 32 farmers are to put down garlic and other high value seeds on a 0, 8 hectares piece of land. In an interview recently, Imbewu Family chief marketing and information manager Mr Tembo Moyo said in enticing small holder farmers into the high value crops, they wanted them to diversify and earn a living as well.

“It is high time farmers in Matabeleland region diversify and concentrate on farming enterprises that are profitable.

As Imbewu Family, we identified the potential that farmers in Mahabangome had in terms of diversifying their farming. The interest in garlic and other high value crops is huge among the farmers we identified, of which if fully funded, the project is anticipated to rake in as much foreign currency that is going to change lives in Bulilima District.”

He said their aim was to impart knowledge to farmers by offering technical assistance. First Mutual Bank, according to Mr Tembo, was yet to finalise the actual agreement, but the institution maintained its position to fund the individual farmers. “We are still engaging with the bank but for now the farmers are raring to go. The aims and objectives of Imbewu Family are to revive the country’s farming districts so as to empower communities which are now left with elderly farmers,” he said.

The planting of garlic and other high value crops has ignited interest in farmers from dry regions countrywide of late.

Mr Tembo said the interest is driven by evidence that such crops sustain livelihoods as they are in demand on the export market.

High value cash crops such as garlic have a significant role in the crop husbandry value chain owing to their nutritional and medicinal value.

The Imbewu Family’s capacitation of farmers in Bulilima started with Somnene Irrigation scheme where more than 20 women were assisted to revive their farming venture that was on the verge of collapse. The farmers were given 2  000 seedlings of the HTX tomato variety.

In its 36 years of existence, the Somnene agriculture venture had not cultivated vegetables. It was not in the farmers’ idea or interest to do that type of agronomy. The partnership was seen as an example of how rural communities have the capacity to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The Somnene Irrigation Scheme is one of many in Matabeleland South that was established to promote a regenerative lifestyle underpinned by agriculture in rural areas.