Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs

via Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs I: pig production | zimbabweland 18 May 2015

In the next few weeks, I want to share some case studies from Masvingo focusing on new agricultural entrepreneurs. This links to our work on Space, Markets Employment and Agricultural Development that I have shared before – particularly through our series of films. One thing that has struck me working in the post-2000 resettlements, is what some call a ‘business mentality’. This takes many forms, and is of course not universal, but one important feature of new resettlement areas, particularly perhaps the A1 areas, is the presence of agricultural entrepreneurs. These are people who have established often quite specialised businesses to complement their on-going farming activities. In the next few weeks, I will discuss pig production, poultry and irrigated horticulture.

The numbers of people involved are small. They are usually people with particular connections, some capital and have worked out a market niche. While these have always been part and parcel of the rural production and market landscape, they have become more common. This is in part because they are filling a gap in markets left by the absence of larger scale commercial players. But they are not just replicating past patterns. They are smaller scale, reaching different markets, and embedded in different social and economic relationships. But they are producing, supplying products in demand to different outlets, and very often employing others.

One thing that they have in common is that these businesses are linked in to wider supply chains and connections to other market connections. This is where the articulation of different types of businesses, of different scales, are important. This is important, for example, for the supply of day-old chicks, or for pig slaughter or horticulture product processing. Equally these specialised businesses often need acquiring new skills – for veterinary care, for marketing techniques and so on. This means that knowledge networks – including with ‘classic’ extension workers, but also other business people in social networks – becomes important.

Business and technological innovation, credit financing and capacity issues are all important in developing entrepreneurial opportunities and this needs external support. Here the role of the state is significant in shaping innovation and business environments, but this has largely been absent.

This week, I want to focus on pigs. Pig production on a very small scale, and usually with indigenous animals has long been present in communal areas. But in our sites we have seen the emergence of more advanced piggery options, with improved breeds, and infrastructural development for sties and so on. In 2014 we undertook a survey across all our 16 sites in Masvingo, across four districts, in both A1 and A2 schemes. We found only five cases of ‘improved’ market oriented pig production among the 400 households, so this is a relatively rare occupation. Below I share three case interviews from Masvingo district, which are broadly representative of these new businesses.

Case 1: My name is NM. I am 65 years old, married and educated up to secondary school level. I am a farmer in Wondedzo A1 practising pig production. We produce Landrace and Duroc cross porkers. Production started in 2004 when we bought 4 gilts and 1 boar from a Gutu farmer. Money to start the project came from crop sales and my welding shop in Masvingo town. We did not benefit financially from any outside source. At present we have 4 sows, 1 boar and and 5 female porkers (gilts). Over the years selection of breeding stock has been internal, so no further animals have been bought in. The highest number of pigs was in 2013 when we had 58 pigs composed of 6 sows, 2 boars, 8 male porkers and 42 female porkers. We sold most of our stock due to feed and accommodation constraints, mostly to local farmers and to customers in Mucheke suburb of Masvingo town, including civil servants. We sold 13 pigs in the last 12 months. A total of USD$2050 was realised from sales. Ten pigs were sold to local farmers for USD$1620, two to Mucheke residents for USD$300 and one to a civil servant group for USD$130 . Money was used for school fees, grocery, pig feeds and medicines. USD$821 was used to buy pig inputs. We do not employ labour for the piggery. My wife and I do all the work. We only hire people temporarily to gather melons from our fields which we use as supplementary pig feed. I gained pig rearing knowledge from employment as a foreman at NKM’s Gutu commercial farm from 1983 to 1986. Diseases have been a challenge. Our current pig housing consists of brick under grass thatch but with mud floors. The absence of concrete floors has led to prevalence of tape worm and wireworm infections in young pigs. We want to build a proper pig house with 8 cubicles and a big shed for handling feeds but do not have enough capital. Financial limitations are worsened by recurrent droughts when feeds become quite expensive. Drinking water for pigs is a problem especially in dry years. Finances permitting we have plans to deepen our well. We achieve litter sizes of 8 piglets per sow. We want to expand our Masvingo markets including supplying Colcom in future.

Case 2: I am 57 yrs and formerly I worked in the army. I used some money from my pension to kick off the piggery project in 2005. I gained experience in pig rearing while working on the army’s farming projects. I started with just two pigs, a large white boar and an indigenous ‘mukota ‘sow. I get advice from the Dept of Veterinary Services officials. I need fast growing pigs therefore I am in the process of replacing indigenous sows with large whites. I want to start afresh.  Earlier in the year I had 20 pigs composed of two boars. five sows, six male porkers, and seven female porkers. At present I just have four pigs, a boar and three gilts all to be replaced by August 2014.

Project costs incurred in the last 12 months are in the table below:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Labour Sty construction, feeding, watering, melon collection 300
Dipping chemicals 2 litres 24
Procane penicillin 100 ml 10
Pig starter 100 kgs 72
Pig concentrate 100 kgs 74
Sunflower 12 buckets 60
Maize 24 buckets 187
Total   427

Dip chemicals were sourced from the Vet Dept in Masvingo town. I bought starter and concentrate from Farm and City and National Food shops in Masvingo town. During the past rainy season the pigs were affected by sores all over the body but Procane penicillin effectively contained the problem. I sold 16 pig units in the last 12 months (see table).

Market Pigs sold Amount usd
Masvingo town 6 male porkers 240
Masvingo town 4 female porkers 160
Masvingo town 3 sows 240
Masvingo town 1 large boar 130
Masvingo town 2 young boars 160
Total   930

Income was used to buy farm inputs (fertiliser), pig feeds and some dollars were spent on purchasing a car. In future I want to build proper brick and roof pens for the pigs. At present it is a pole construction and grass roof. I want to build 10 pens to house expected bigger litter sizes than the current 6 litters per sow. This will be achieved through changing over to pure bred pigs. The pigs must have ample drinking water so I want to dig a deep well. On the market front I want to supply Colcom and private butcheries in Masvingo town.

Case 3: I am in my late 50s, married and work for Zimbabwe Railways in Harare, and have an A2 plot in Bompst farm. I copied the idea of pork farming from Mr M a farmer in Wayne who keeps porkers. Before taking up the project I had a goat project, selling goat meat to Masvingo townships and to Chevron Hotel. I erected four pens with bricks, poles under roofing and started the project in 2011 with three landrace gilts and a Duroc boar. 140 usd was spentconstructing the pig pens in the last 12 months. At present I have15 pigs composed of six sows, four male prkers aged three months and five piglets aged three weeks. I have one permanent worker and casuals at the farm and proceeds from sale of pigs help to pay them.

Inputs purchased in the last 12 months are reflected in table below:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Dip chemical 1.2 litres 30
Systamex 800ml 26
Megapen LA 200ml 16
Pig concentrate 600kgs 384
Home crushes 300kgs 150
Pig Pen construction
Builder and materials 140
Total   746

I am into horticulture so I supplement pigs with garden left overs. Most feeds and drugs are sourced from Masvingo town shops especially Meno Maviri and Musa Hardware. I own a butchery in Mucheke township where I sold 8 pig units in the last 12 months. Butchery pig sales in last 12 months.

Number of pigs sold Average weight per carcasse Price per kg Total amount
3 40 5 600
2 45 5 450
3 30 5 540
Total 1590


Apart from helping to pay farm workers, proceeds from pig sales also helped buy horticulture inputs. Challenges faced with piggery include recurrent droughts and diseases. Droughts cause food shortages and increases in feed costs. Internal parasites such as tapeworm are a problem in young pigs but can be controlled through dosing and good hygiene practises. Mange is the common external parasite but can be controlled through regular dipping and scrubbing using brushes and soap. In future I want to open more butcheries in Masvingo town as well as expanding pig infrastructure in order to accommodate more pigs.

These cases from Masvingo district are similar to others we have collected in other areas of the province. A number of features emerge:

  • Technological upgrading: from indigenous to ‘improved’ varieties, or crosses, although limits on continuing to improve the quality of stock due to lack of financing and access to genetics.
  • Infrastructural upgrading: including the development of new sties and also wells for watering
  • Skill development: learning from other farmers and from past jobs.
  • Labour: these are all small scale operations, and mostly family labour is deployed, but some hired labour is important in larger operations.
  • Farm-business linkages: including the planting of crops for supplementary feeding
  • Input supply: hooking into Masvingo based suppliers was essential. These businesses are embedded in much wider set of businesses
  • Disease management: veterinary drugs and disease control have been crucial and support from state supplied services, notably from the Veterinary Department have been essential.
  • Market linkages: Most have started out linking to informal market networks, but ambitions exist to link to larger market outlets, notably Colcom. Access to this has not always been straightforward, as these larger operations are not yet geared to local small-scale supply chains. In one case, a vertically integrated approach has been adopted to their own butchery business.

In all these cases (and indeed all the others involving pigs), these businesses were run by older men. This was because they had the finance capital (such as from a pension) to invest in starting up. The businesses once they got going were maintaining a profit, allowing for reinvestment. But piggeries are not a business opportunity for everyone. Next week, I look at broiler production, which is both more common, and with a wider array of business models, and wider participation.

 This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared first on Zimbabweland


  • comment-avatar
    grabmore 7 years ago

    Small nationalised plots of land never have economies of scale and I wonder if there is proof from other countries where socialist style small holdings have been successful. ? People trying a ‘bit of this’ and a ‘bit of that’ is not commercially viable Surely!

  • comment-avatar
    The Mind Boggles 7 years ago

    More Scoones drivel not worth the paper it’s written on

  • comment-avatar

    Ah! Scones again! Blessed by ZPF.

    Some years ago I remember listening to the Minister of Agriculture in Kenya saying, “The future lies in large scale commercial farming in Africa”. I thought, “Yes indeed – and we have just destroyed ours”.

    There has never been anything to stop anyone BUYING some land and farming it – not even in Rhodesian times (no one remembers the APA’s do they?) I am 100% in favour of that. What I am totally against is squatters moving on to and destroying working and successful farms. But, that is “The Zanooo Way”

    I think Scones must also be a great fan of Pol Pot and the Cultural Revolution in China? He certainly has that mindset

  • comment-avatar
    The Mind Boggles 7 years ago

    @ KWV I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Pol Pot sounds about right for this clown.
    Why bother importing maize into Zimbabalooba let everyone eat pigs as it’s such a roaring success according to Pol Scoones Pot. Some of the pig sh@t he writes and excuse the pun but I find it hard to believe he even exists.

  • comment-avatar
    Rob Sacco 7 years ago

    Well I suppose it is something that rabid rhodies do read your posts, Mr Scoones. Interesting that they all hide their identities. Dinosaurs like them will be with us for a while yet, more is the pity. It took them a half century of government mollycoddling and a host of discriminatory legislation to make them half way profitable on their huge expanses of land and with their near slave labour. Right now I work in and know many resettlement areas, such as ‘Charleswood’ which once was run by Roy Bennett, which are infinitely more productive than they were when they were run by the short-pants brigade. Let them rave on, their time has been and gone.

  • comment-avatar
    ntaba 7 years ago

    I was at Charleswood recently and am not yet convinced that this is definitely the case – as reported by Rob Sacco. Please could Rob Sacco supply the production records and numbers. As with Scoones and any other agricultural scientist it is always better to back up such comments with numbers as Eddie Cross always does having worked in Agricultural Economics in the country for over 50 years. We need more factual evidence than Zanu propaganda and spin. I am very happy to have the facts presented for critical analysis – something that Sacco is still keeping under his bushel? The Scoones figures of 3 pigs here and 6 pigs there can at least be converted to dollar figures but expansive comments about “short pants” do not instil scientific confidence just yet. As with the 20 000 civilians murdered in Matabeleland and the 4 million civilians who have joined the diaspora – “their time is gone” is a Nazi like comment about the 6 million Jews. I may add – the wheel can turn – think about Gadaffi and Saddam Hussein – their time has also gone!

  • comment-avatar
    ntaba 7 years ago

    Research indicates that “Rob Sacco was part of the Zanu propaganda team in Sandton two months ago, led by Jonathon Moyo…” press release August, 2011. I also read that he was very friendly with the late Herbert Ushewokunze – so it seems that Rob Sacco does indeed have an impeccable pedigree with Zanu propaganda. For this he must be commended in the zanu context – but when it comes to agricultural science we might now need Scoones and Sacco to present figures not spin!

  • comment-avatar
    The Mind Boggles 7 years ago

    Short pants are better than no pants!!!!!

  • comment-avatar
    ntaba 7 years ago

    We do need to be mindful of the Sacco-Scoones hero worship mindset of Zanu. As always, we also need to think about the saying that “every man has his price.” It is really interesting that both Sacco and Scoones wax lyrical about Zanu whom we know bayonetted a six week old baby to death in Chimanimani in 1977. Similarly they also know that Zanu sent assassin squads in for Martin Olds, Allan Dunn, David Stephens and Terry Ford – just as they sent Perence Shiri into Matabeleland with the Fifth Brigade(Australia Govt has just released the transcripts of this after 30 years). But still, Scoones and Sacco hold their Zanu oath and line!