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Voedsel empowers tobacco farmers

BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA

Voedsel Tobacco International, has embarked on a mission to empower farmers and communities through establishing various projects as part of its social corporate responsibility.

Since the opening of the tobacco selling season, the company has employed a total of 40 youths at its Marondera Tobacco Floor drawn from different constituencies.

Voedsel commercial director, Tennyson Hwandi said the employed youths were drawn from the farming regions in which they operate.

“We work with the farming communities, hence the need to recognise them through employing the youths as we try to give back to them. We have a total of 40 youths who we employed this tobacco selling season who are at Marondera Floors. All the youths were drawn from our constituencies in which we operate,” he said.

The company has thousands of contracted farmers in Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West, among other provinces.

In a move to capacitate budding tobacco farmers, Voedsel Tobacco International is also drilling boreholes in the farming communities, a move that will see an increase in the production of the golden leaf.

“We have come up with the concept of drilling boreholes for mostly small-scale farmers who are in dire need of irrigation facilities. The drilling of boreholes will enable these farmers to increase their tobacco output through drip irrigation. As a company, we are set to drill at least 500 solar-powered boreholes across all our farming regions before the onset of the rains. To date, five boreholes have been drilled in the Svosve area.

“The farmers have welcomed the programme and we are under pressure to ensure that the project is completed in time as tobacco farmers prepare for the next season. However, we will deduct a small percentage of money for the boreholes at the next tobacco selling season. This is a noble concept as it also improves people’s livelihoods,” said Hwandi.

A number of small-scale farmers have been facing massive challenges without irrigation facilities due to successive droughts as most of them depend on rains.

However, the borehole drilling project is set to change the lives of many as well as ensuring a good crop in the event of erratic rains.

The company has also started empowering female farmers with tobacco inputs. At the end of the current tobacco season, a top female farmer is set to be honoured with a vehicle.

“We are breaking the traditional set-up that considers men as only the head farmers. Things have changed and women are now doing well in all aspects among them tobacco farming. We are also giving women farming inputs among other things. We are leaving no one behind. Moroever, at the end of the tobacco selling season we are going to award the best female farmer with a Runx vehicle,” said Hwandi.

“The best male farmer is going to walk away with a tractor. We are also doing good things for our commercial farmers with the recent one being purchasing a centre pivot for one of them.”

Voedsel Tobacco International has so far bought over five million kilogrammes of the golden leaf from its contracted farmers against a target of 10m kg attributed to low rains this season.

“We are now at the peak of buying tobacco from our farmers and we now have at least five million kilogrammes, we were expecting 10 million kilogrammes, but we will know by the closing of the selling season how far we have gone. The good thing is that we have now contracted 8 000 new farmers for the 2021 season, a leap from 5 000 this season. Our target is to contract around 20 000 farmers and we will achieve that,” said Hwandi.

The company contracts both small-scale and commercial farmers, gives them inputs and technical expertise before buying their crop, an arrangement that has been welcomed by most communal farmers who have been at the mercy of middlemen commonly known as makoronyera.

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