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Small-scale farmers have accused the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) of hampering their efforts to turn around the fortunes of the country’s waning agricultural sector.

Zimbabwe has been turned from being the bread basket of southern Africa to a begging case following the land reform programme.

Some people who were allocated large tracts of productive land have failed to utilise them, leaving small-scale farmers with the burden of feeding the nation.

However, the small-scale farmers have accused the GMB of not doing much to support them.

This emerged recently during a Pioneer Seeds sponsored field day where excelling small-scale farmers were rewarded in Nyanga South constituency.

Scores of small-scale farmers, government officials and experts in extension work took a swipe at the GMB, accusing it of short changing players in the sector.

GMB is mandated to implement the Input Supply Credit Scheme in order to stimulate growth in the agriculture sector and to establish more depots to provide proximity to stakeholders.

Under Zim Asset — the country’s economic blueprint — the cluster of food and nutrition is expected to receive support from players like GMB.

“Zimbabwe earned the breadbasket of Africa status because of small-scale farmers. We applaud the small-scale farmers for realising about 10 tonnes of maize per hectare because they are supporting Zim Asset,” Nyanga South MP Supa Mandiwanzira said.

He also challenged Zinwa not to charge the small-scale farmers who harvest water from several water sources, saying the farmers need to be incentivised for the great work they were doing.

Mandiwanzira commended the patience exhibited by the farmers who have to wait for a long time before receiving their dues from GMB.

Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa said GMB should focus on its core business and support farmers in increasing their yield.

Mutasa said the country should consider venturing in the Private Public Partnerships with players in different sectors as this has proved to be bearing positive results.

He said such competitions were important as they encouraged farmers to excel.

“Tell the Agriculture minister that we are not happy with what GMB is doing. They should form Public Private Partnerships with other stakeholders such as seed houses and ensure that the food and nutrition clause in the Zim Asset is a success,” Mutasa said.

“They should stop milling because that is drawing us back. People go to GMB to sell their grains and if you are not so lucky they will tell you about moisture. You will then go back carrying the maize to your rural home to wait for the percentage that they want.”

Renie Nyakwava, the winner of this year’s competition who is expecting about 24 tonnes of maize was happy with her achievement. For her efforts she got a borehole worth US$7 000 and inputs.

“I practise crop rotation and inter-cropping. What is limiting me is just the small plot that I have, but for my efforts I bought a house in Harare and managed to buy a car,” she said.

Nyakwava encouraged other farmers to be committed since farming requires patience.

She said people should take aice from extension workers in their areas because they were masters in farming.

Turning to GMB, Nyakwava said she has since stopped delivering grain to the parastatal because it pays late and the prices offered did not complement her efforts.

“GMB is not clear on prices and they pay late. I am now supplying mostly schools and other individuals because it’s more profitable,” she added.

Another winner, Ottilia Muphanhliwa from Chikomba district in Mashonaland East said GMB should improve its services or risk losing clients.

“The payment by GMB is not encouraging. If we sell to them like this August they will give us the money next year and yet we need that money to buy inputs for the coming season,” she said.

“I also implore the organisers of this competition to do their judging early because if they delay we end up accruing post-harvest losses.”

Other farmers said GMB should bring back the input schemes and give them the inputs in time to ease pressure on them.

“It’s better for them to give us inputs in exchange of the maize that we give them for a certain tonnage and then pay us the outstanding money later. We want inputs early otherwise we will end up failing to plant at the expected time,” said another small-scale farmer Misheck Zonda.

A senior official in the agriculture ministry, Resston Muzamindo acknowledged the shortcomings and reassured farmers that they were working on their grievances.

“We are trying to ensure that people get the inputs in time to avoid disruptions. Those who bring their produce first will be the ones who will be paid first,” he said.

“We are also in the process of acquiring dryers so that people will not have to carry their crop back if it has moisture.”

Muzamindo said efforts were being made to reduce the post-harvest losses, adding that the country was still importing a lot of maize as the yield received was not enough to feed the country.

Farmers were urged to buy seeds from accredited seed houses to avoid buying fake seeds.

Several farmers thanked Pioneer Seeds for coming up with such an incentive for farmers.

Philipa Rwambiwa, the Nyanga district agriculture extension officer challenged seed houses to do more in research on climate change in order to develop seed varieties which suit the changing climate.

She also said rural farmers need support in terms of inputs as they had the capacity to become successful farmers.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard