Farmers’ all night vigil

Mbuya Muchaneta Denhera, 64, is a hardworking and worried communal farmer who has worked tirelessly on the land in order to provide for her extended family, but who is now forced to stand guard over her produce to protect it from thieves.

The Dombotombo Farm Produce Market where farmers have no choice but to sleep beside their stalls to protect their produce.
The Dombotombo Farm Produce Market where farmers have no choice but to sleep beside their stalls to protect their produce.

The Dombotombo Farm Produce Market has turned into a free for all as policemen, who have been charged with the responsibility of guarding the produce overnight, have been helping themselves to whatever they fancy.

“I work hard at my rural home in village 13 Saint Pauls Mission, Murewa to provide for my poor extended family. I leave bed for the fields before dawn and go home after dusk every working day.

“I take mealie maize, lemon, vegetables and nuts to the market. My lemons are purchased mainly by informal business people specialising in the making of detergents.

“The land is ‘exhausted’ as a result of being over worked and the non-availability of both organic and artificial fertilizer. It can hardly produce enough for the market and no farmer can afford to harvest extra produce to offset possible losses at the hands of eventual theft of produce at the market.

“Our situation was made more desperate by the fact that the suspected thieves snatching the produce from the market overnight were members of the council police, under whose custody farm produce was left for safe keeping when the market closes at the end of the day.

“I have been selling farm produce at the market for the past three decades and had never experienced such a bad practice. Although there is plenty of ‘security’ over night, farmers have been forced to set up vigils to protect their produce.

“The farmers take it in turns to sleep with one eye open as the suspected thieves take tomatoes, oranges and onions from the stalls. This is in spite of several meetings between the police and the farmers.

“Last week a farmer, Manyere, lost bags of maize grain valued at US$150 to the thieves. The grain was later recovered at the house of one of the police officers. Another accused council police officer (name supplied) admitted having stolen tomatoes from the farmers and said would pay for the produce.”

Other affected farmers said they had made several fruitless requests for a disaster management meeting with the Chief Fire and Security Officer, Charles Manuel.

“We remained disturbed by Manuel’s attitude towards our reports. As the head of department, he is supposed to swing into action and save poor farmers from this kind of treatment. We would suggest that if council cannot guarantee the safe-keeping of farmers’ produce, it should sub-contract the task to private security companies.”

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