Home » Business » Organic Farming Project Brings Hope

When the Danish International Development Agency unveiled a market gardening project to support smallholder farmers in Shurugwi’s Chatora Village under Chief Ndanga, Elson Maramwidzemoyo was one of the many villagers who was quick to dismiss the idea as a mere waste of time.

With Shurugwi falling under region three where farming is mainly subsistence and it being a mining town where the majority are into gold panning, Maramwidzemoyo could not imagine this new project would bring any meaningful change in his life, let alone money.

But a year later after the rolling out of the project, dubbed the Rural Agriculture Revitalisation Project, where, he has for long been a passive participant, the project, which is on a one hectare piece of land, is now a green lung of thriving vegetables, tomatoes peas and potatoes.

His mindset towards the project has dramatically changed.

The facilitators of the project, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, have already clinched lucrative deals with big supermarkets and companies. Pick n’ Pay, Midlands Spar and other companies like Servcor at Unki Mine have all agreed to provide a ready market for the project’s produce.

It will not be very long before Maramwidzemoyo starts realising the fruits of the project.

“It was early last year when SNV identified a wetland in our village and approached the villagers through our councillors to participate in organic farming.

“When facilitators who fenced the area before approaching us to start farming vegetables like carrots, peas, tomatoes among others, it did not make sense to me. It’s only now that the project is beginning to make a lot of sense and looks very important as a life changing project for the rural folks like us,” said Maramwidzemyo.

He said he was confident that his life would soon change thanks to his participating in the organic farming project albeit with a sceptical mind in the beginning.

“Now many people want to be part of this Tugwi-Dekete as it is now famously referred to as. The donor is running around looking for other wetlands to try and roll out similar projects in Shurugwi so as to accommodate the high demand. People are beginning to realise the importance of the whole idea,” he said

Another beneficiary of the Tugwi-Dekete project, Dion Mukori, said the project came as a huge relief to her as the area was plagued by droughts.

She said most villagers had shunned farming and were now into gold panning.

“In Shurugwi, we have not been getting good rainfalls for many years and the majority of us were no longer interested in farming.

“When this project came we embraced it in the hope that at least we can venture into another type of farming and it’s now starting to bear fruits.

“We thank the donor who came up with this noble idea,” she said.

She said what was pleasing was that the donor was giving them the much needed support including sourcing the market for them.

“Where to sell our vegetables was bound to be a mind boggling challenge to most of us but thanks to SNV working with us on the ground, our products already have a ready market.

“We have started supplying our products to such supermarkets as Midlands Spar and True Fresh in Gweru. It’s very encouraging,” she remarked.

Another beneficiary, Plaxedes Mutodi said the donor was introducing other projects and has since constructed fish ponds and supplied the fish to kick-start a fish project.

She said to date the fish and market gardening project were benefiting about 500 households.

“We expect to harvest our first batch of fish next month. We have over 1 050 fish and we hope to realise a lot of money from it when we harvest them,” she said.

SNV Agriculture sector leader, Mr Elton Mudyazvivi, said the organisation will be assisting and monitoring the projects for the next three years after which they will leave the villagers to fund themselves.

Under the period, the villagers will receive training so as to improve their farming skills.

He said the projects were run under what the organisation termed the Rural Agriculture Revitalisation Project – Commercialisation of Smallholder Farming (RARP-CSF) programme.

“The whole project is being funded by DANIDA and implemented by SNV working in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development and the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development,” he said.

Mr Mudyazvivi said organic farming and market gardening was the way to go in the current climatic conditions.

“The future and sustainability of our agriculture is in a stable ecosystem hence we believe in organic farming as the future for smallholder farmers, where farmers have to sell quality and healthy goods to the market” he said.

“The market for organic food and other products has grown rapidly, reaching $63 billion worldwide in 2012. The world has come to acknowledge that use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides is beneficial in the short term, but with serious longer term side effects which include soil compaction, soil erosion, and declines in overall soil fertility, along with health concerns about toxic chemicals entering the food supply.

“We need to preserve our wetlands and take up organic farming to commercialisation stage as most of our markets prefer our products over the genetically modified products being supplied by other farmers from other areas. We need to shun GMO’s because they are unhealthy and are the causes of some diseases like cancer from chemicals being used,” he said.

Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association (ZOPPA) Trust production officer, Mr Tichaona Charova, said his organisation conducted training with smallholder farmers so that they produce healthy products.

“We have done a lot of training and we are certifying hundreds of farmers which will help them boost business. We are working on strengthening our institutional capacity to lead and coordinate all actors along the value chain, standardising organic production, putting strategic focus on research into organic friendly technologies and solutions, fighting for government policy support on organic farming including raising awareness and information provision,” he said.

As opposed to modern and conventional agricultural methods, organic farming does not depend on synthetic chemicals.

It utilises natural, biological methods to build up soil fertility such as microbial activity boosting plant nutrition.

Multiple cropping practiced in organic farming boosts biodiversity which enhances productivity and resilience and contributes to a healthy farming system unlike conventional farming systems which use mono-cropping that destroys soil fertility.

The method has benefits which include better nutrition, enhanced taste, longer shelf life and also absence of poison from chemicals, pesticides or weedicides.

Source : The Herald