Nkosilathi Sibanda, Sunday News Correspondent
FOR years Mrs Nobukhosi Ncube (68) and her neighbour Khethiwe Sibanda (64) have been farming but not getting enough harvest out of their small land holdings in the Somnene area of Bulilima district in the expansive Matabeleland South Province.
They planted maize, groundnuts and other small grain varieties just like other older generations in their families did.
The maize crop, a staple and a must have for every farmer in the country, has not done well for them, they confess.
After long thoughts of finding other agricultural practices that would give better yields, the women chose to be vegetable farmers.
They joined Somnene Irrigation scheme and were part of the more than 20 women who have since revived the farming venture that was on the verge of collapse.
Proud that they are able to make a small contribution towards a healthy nation during the Covid-19 pandemic, the women of Somnene are happy that they can still continue to produce and sell vegetables without leaving their homes.
All this was possible through a smart partnership brokered by an emerging agriculture enterprise, Imbewu.
Imbewu is run by three Bulawayo-based farmers who are led by Prosper Chikwara, one the country’s celebrated young farmers.
The company is grounded on promoting farming in the dry Matabeleland region through empowering women in their communities and aims to encourage self-sufficiency during this global pandemic.
Upon knowing that even tomatoes, pepper, spinach, butternut and even sunflower can be grown in the area, Mrs Ncube and Ms Zondo did not hesitate to convince Imbewu to bring such seedlings. On a wet Tuesday afternoon when Imbewu met the farmers, the Sunday News crew witnessed how committed women at Somnene Irrigation Scheme were about changing their lives through agriculture. The women had to clear a patch of land on the 25-hectare space in preparation to plant a rare variety of tomato seedlings brought by Imbewu.
Imbewu chief executive, Mr Prosper Chikwara said in handing over the seedlings, they wanted to help farmers in Matabeleland provinces to fight hunger, especially in the wake of droughts and the Covid-19 pandemic that has also hampered agricultural activity worldwide.
Mrs Qaphelani Ndebele one of the farmers said they will use the technical expertise from Imbewu to produce food in a way that seeks to rebuild and strengthen the physical ecology around them.
The seedlings beneficiaries, as Mr Chikwara explained, will be guided so that they avoid making mistakes that novice farmers make when they venture into horticulture.
He said their focus on women was driven by the reality of hard work put by the farmers.
So far, the company has donated 2 000 seedlings of the HTX tomato variety to Khayelihle Children’s Village, 2 500 seedlings of the Akella tomato variety to Umzingwane Community Garden. Another 2 000 seedlings of the Daisy tomato variety was given to Senamiso Ndlovu a farmer in Nyamandlovu, 500 of the same plant to Prioress Tshuma.