The forced closure of fresh produce markets throughout Zimbabwe has left thousands of smallholder farmers in huge financial trouble, adding to existing problems caused by climate change, which has cut farm output due to a shortage or rain or too much of it.
Now, agriculture experts want government authorities to step up and ensure the full re-opening of these key markets to save livelihoods, both that of the farmers who sell their products there and of the people that depend on the market places to buy food.
This is not an act of rebellion against Corona-virus containment measures, experts stressed, rather a call to cross-sectoral dialogue based on the importance of fresh produce markets in socio-economic development.
The call follows the partial re-opening of the Mbare, Hatcliffe and Lusaka farmers’ markets by the Harare City Council two weeks ago, as lockdown restrictions started to ease. The market places open for just 7 hours a day, from 4am to 11.30am, “after which period the market area will be cleaned,” said the municipality, in a statement.
“While we applaud efforts being made to re-open markets in a manner that protects citizens from contracting coronavirus, farmers and citizens still remain concerned about the trading time and the closure of other major markets throughout the country,” said Getrude Pswarayi-Jabson, a Harare-based agriculture conservation expert.
Pswarayi-Jabson said the issue of granting farmers access to fresh produce markets was “overlooked in the initial lockdown period.”
“Farmers’ markets such as these are a major revenue source for farmers and the main source of food for the majority of Zimbabweans,” she opined.