Working with the Ilembe District Municipality in KwaZulu Natal, the founder of Zunco Greenhouse farming and experienced agricultural practitioner, Dr Ephraim Zungu, says the atmospheric controlled conditions in the greenhouses ensure that plants are exposed to the best agro-ecological conditions. A variety of crops is grown – including maize, tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs and potatoes. Greenhouse farmers have done well even on poor soils and use less water compared to farming on open land. The system uses drip irrigation. On a quarter of a hectare, 2 560 m2, 12 000 plants can be grown with a potential to produce five to seven tonnes of harvest per week. The produce is equal to the harvest from two hectares from fertile soil on open land with all inputs and labour being applied. Greenhouse harvests can be achieved without the use of the fertilizers like Ammonium Nitrate and Compound D that need to be applied on open land farming. “A greenhouse of such size can employ at least 25 people on a permanent basis. The people will be occupied throughout the year unlike on open land where seasonal differences make it impossible to practise farming on a continuous basis,” said Robson Zimuto of the Agricultural Development Trust which promotes sustainable agriculture through intensive systems.
Zungu visited Bikita to kick-start a similar project. He brought with him the polythene covering that will be used to build the first greenhouse – to be located at Mushambanevhu business centre in Bikita East, because of its proximity to the Musayizi River.
The project has been spearheaded by Sesel Zvidzai, deputy minister of local government. He also pioneered a successful cattle rearing project in Bikita, that has now been replicated in Chirumanzu, Midlands province.