Farming gamble pays off

tobacco_plantContract farming not the best answer
MARONDERA-EAST - Tapera Hwenjere (46) of Mushangwe Farm in the Igava area is a new tobacco farmer resettled under the controversial Zanu (PF) land reform programme. To avoid mortgaging himself to farm contracting companies, he sold one of his three cattle and purchased farm inputs at the beginning of th

Last week he sold his produce at Boka Tobacco Auction Floors in Harare and fulfilled his dreams as he managed to replace the sacrificed beast and added three more to the heard. He narrated to The Zimbabwean how the high risk gamble worked in his favour.

When I grew up my father used to discourage me from engaging in unnecessary borrowing as this would permanently indebt me to money lenders.

I heeded my fathers advice and opted to dispose of one of my beasts and use the proceeds to purchase seed, fertilizer and insecticides at the beginning of the current tobacco season. This was against massive persuasions from various tobacco farming contractors who visited farmers in a bid to engage them as contract farmers.

Contracting companies would provide farmers with all the requirements ranging from cash to pay workers up to tobacco packaging material. They would recover their expenses after farmers have sold the tobacco at auction floors. Farmers who fail to produce enough of the golden leaf to offset the debts, risked losing movable property to contractors or would carry over the bondage to the next tobacco selling season.

Recalling my fathers advice, I decided to go it alone.

Out of $400 realised from selling the beast, I bought seven 50 kg bags of compound C fertilizer at $32 each, pesticides, Khaki tobacco wrapping paper and Pro-packs. Part of the little balance helped to purchase firewood used to cure the tobacco.

Fortunately, the one and a half acre I prepared produced a bumper harvest of good quality crop. I realized 14 bales of top grade golden leaf out of the cured produce.

These fetched a total $5 300 as they were auctioned at an average $3.80 each. Heavens had smiled on me and out of the proceeds I bought four cattle at $350 each, 35 bags of fertilizer, tobacco seed and pesticides in preparation for the next farming season. I also put aside some cash for my sons school fees at high school. Since I lived in two pole and dagga huts, I managed to buy building material and constructed a four roomed brick house under asbestos and made renovations to the family tobacco barn. I would use the purchased cattle as draught power in my farming activities.

In the next farming season I would increase the tobacco hectarage to two hectares as I wish to grow into a full time farmer as time goes by. The idea of footing my farming activities from own resources gave me peace of mind as some contracted farmers were now being pursued by their contractors demanding they send the tobacco to auction floors and pay accrued debts. Contractors would take their due at the tobacco floors and give the remainder if any, to the farmers.

Though contract farming was a crucial element towards empowerment of new famers, a high level of responsibility on the part of contracted farmers was a pre-requisite. Misuse of acquired resources would leave irresponsible farmers worse off. Farmers making the best out of contract farming would be advised to prepare to be weaned from the system and be self-sufficient.

Some of the contracted farmers misused acquired inputs and failed to yield a good harvest. Some would hardly make a single standard bale of cured tobacco. They are in a dilemma.

Contracted farmers in the area were playing hide-and-seek with contracting companies conducting audits to establish if acquired loans were put to good use.

Haunted and unsuccessful contracted new farmers have vowed to sacrifice family assets and possibly avoid the contracted mode of farming in future. As for my family and other upcoming farmers in my situation, the gamble of risking personal property in the interest of self sponsored farming paid dividends.

With his farming project now anchored on firm ground, Hwenjere wishes to diversify into horticulture activities in the near future. He also intends to turn into an all season farmer, by acquiring irrigation equipment such as water pumps and pipes to harness water from a local dam.

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