One of the villagers, Beatrice Mapuranga (53) considers herself a businesswoman even though all she has is a five-hectare plot and a small vegetable garden. This year, Mapuranga is assured of harvesting enough maize for her family’s subsistence just like last year and a surplus for sale.
“I am also looking at earning some money from selling my cowpeas, groundnuts and sorghum,” she said. “Last year, I managed to pay my children’s school fees and to buy a cow after selling my produce”.
The mother of nine is among 11 villagers from Nyanzira who are involved in a project to grow cash crops under the seed company Agriseeds. Under the project, farmers commit part of their five-hectare farms to grow the crops.
Agriseeds supports them with loans which they use to buy inputs, including seed, fertilisers and chemicals.
A non-governmental organisation, SNV Zimbabwe provides technical training whereby the farmers are taught business skills and how best to improve their yields.
Government extension workers provide technical support while inspectors visit the farms to assess if the farmers are adhering to requirements for growing seed and to also endorse the crop.
“We encourage small-scale farmers to drop the dependency syndrome and be business minded,” Agriseeds MD, Walter Chigodora said.
“Some, like Mapuranga, have held on since the beginning of the project in 2009 while others failed to do well and had to be removed from the programme this year.
“We started with 2 200 farmers covering Mashonaland Central, East and West but this year we only have 1 448 after some failed to repay their loans.”
At the beginning of this season, Mapuranga borrowed US$371 from Agriseeds and has so far harvested 10 bags of cowpeas, each weighing 50 kg and she still has some of the crop in the fields.
She has also started harvesting groundnuts and the sorghum crop, which is yet to mature, is flourishing.
The programme encourages farmers to set aside two hectares to grow maize for family subsistence and Mapuranga’s maize crop is ready for harvesting.
“I can now safely say that I will repay the loan with the cowpeas I have harvested so far because Agriseeds buys a tonne at US$700 and I have harvested half a tonne already.
Some of the more enterprising villagers have since set-up small businesses to tap on the benefits.
One such business is an agro dealers’ scheme spearheaded by a wholesaler called Feyafeya.
Under this scheme, owners of retail shops are supplied with agricultural inputs including seed, fertiliser and chemicals to sell to farmers.
“Seed and fertiliser companies in Harare provide the stock and we supply the agro dealers,” Feyafeya sales manager Joel Mugariri said. “They sell the stock and give us the cash after selling.”
Lookout Gotora from Musami Business Centre is among the 15 dealers who have participated in the project since 2009.
“My hardware shop was closed for a long time because I did not have money to buy stock,” Gotora said. “I then struck a deal with Feyafeya so I could provide about
1 500 families in this ward with farming inputs without incurring too many costs.
The dealers have also partnered with CABS to provide banking services to the community.