Happy new year to all readers of my column and all gardeners and farmers out there! We certainly had a challenging year in farming in 2016, filled with many ups and downs that included prolonged drought conditions and the heat wave that disrupted continuity of horticultural activities, further exacerbated by national liquidity issues.
gardening with Doreen Badze
Additionally, an invasion of pest Tuta Absoluta that continues to wreak havoc mainly among tomato growers is still causing anxiety and confusion. Hopefully your new year will be filled with productivity which brings in significant income that will be accomplished via our common denominator — growing and nurturing plants. In this article let us explore the sector of horticulture that seems to be underestimated by many Zimbabwean black farmers. To accomplish the benefits of horticulture, it seems we have a large gap to close that involves transitioning, or rather balancing between traditional crops like maize, wheat, tobacco etc and horticulture.
By definition, horticulture is the section of agriculture that focuses on the art, science, technology, and business of growing plants. It includes the cultivation of medicinal plants, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, mushrooms, flowers, and inedible crops such as grass and ornamental trees and plants. The point of horticulture is to supplement the traditional agricultural sector in order to meet national dietary needs. I have often heard most farmers verbalise their concerns about how lack of markets are their biggest headache. I surely want to believe there could be markets out there; regional and international, that, if fully engaged, may bring back our old status of being the food basket, this time, of the world. It may sound difficult to attain but given the right tools and guidance, I just know Zimbabweans will shine.
Zimbabwe offers various opportunities in agriculture. It is up to us to embrace that opportunity and make it work for ourselves and our families. Oftentimes farmers shy away from improving their horticultural abilities due to a lack of understanding of the job and the markets. While there are many other challenges that mainly include effective irrigation and finance, the general expense involved in horticulture just makes an average Zimbabwean not want to explore it. Furthermore, high prices of hybrid seed by some seed houses are enough to put some farmers off. However, it is still worth giving it a try.
Horticulture for export
Zimbabwe has always been exporting horticultural produce. unfortunately and sadly, most black farmers were not involved until recently. It is not a secret that some international markets were lost at the height of the land reform programme. However, a few white farmers are still exporting together with some black farmers that are fast catching up on the business as export markets are slowly opening up. In recent years, government has been bridging the gap by subsidising farmers and NGOs by chipping in to assist the poorer farmers get financial aid for horticulture growth. According to those in the business of exporting to foreign markets, there are still many challenges that involve packaging, with cargo way more expensive than in most other countries due to the lack of our own cargo planes. In addition, not enough packaging companies are available and because of lack of competition, prices remain high. Currently, flowers, peas and other vegetables are being exported among others.
It seems the country has not yet unlocked huge markets of external horticulture markets and for those available, demand is not being met. However, some farmers are not willing to start a process that takes long to pay them compared to the usual Mbare market cash-basis deals. While the export of horticulture seems to be a niche, I urge farmers to tap into it in order to keep money flowing in.
Other arms of horticulture that include gardeners, growers, designers and technical advisors in the food and non-food sectors should not be forgotten. The horticulture that I encourage Zimbabweans to focus on for significant income increase, however, is the growing of plants in fields for the purpose of wholesale supply.
Tuta Absoluta update
Farmers continue to use different chemicals to control Tuta Absoluta, among them is Belt product of Bayer.
Available this week in Badze Garden Nursery are the following seedlings: lettuce commander, cabbage star 3316 and still working on a more range of seedlings to come.
Produce available: Tengeru tomatoes
Happy gardening week!
Doreen Mutobaya Badze is a retired nurse and a passion driven gardener. She can be reached on her cell: 0779730880 or 16 Metcalf Road, Greendale, Harare. Facebook page: Badze Garden Nursery and E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org