A coffee break for small-scale farmers

The coffee and tea industry was once a source of great pride and foreign currency for Zimbabwe, but following years of economic hardship it has been struggling to survive. Thanks to a recent initiative by the United States Agency for International Development, however, tea and coffee plantations are being given a new lease of life in Honde Valley.

Kenias Muneto,a coffee farmer from the Eastern Highlands.
Kenias Muneto,a coffee farmer from the Eastern Highlands.

The Revitalization of Small Holder Agricultural Production project, which commenced in October 2010, is being implemented by World Vision in partnership with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, Zimbabwe Coffee Mill Ltd and the Honde Valley Small Holder Development Company.

“Under this programme we are mainly rehabilitating small holder’s coffee and tea plantations which had been abandoned and neglected as a result of the economic challenges of the past ten years. Under the programme we are also assisting farmers withfarming inputs and linking up them with companies where they can market their products,” said Richard Ndou, World Vision Food Security and Livelihoods Team leader.

Competing with the big guns

The project, which covers eight wards in Mutasa district, also encourages small holders to produce high value tea, coffee and cash crops such as maize and groundnuts.

“We have also assisted the farmers with mechanical harvesters and training in tea and coffee production. We want smallholders to compete with commercial producers,” said Ndou.

Local farmer, Kenias Muneto, was forced to abandon his work as a coffee farmer in 2000.

“I had been a coffee farmer since 1986, but I abandoned the crop in 2000 when the economy started deteriorating. I could not afford to buy the inputs and the Zimbabwe dollar had lost value so it was uneconomical to continue farming,” he said.

Thanks to the introduction of the RSHAP programme, Muneto has resumed his production of coffee and tea.

“I am very happy to have been given the opportunity to go back into coffee and tea farming. I have been given enough inputs to be confident of a good harvest this year.

The money will go a long way towards helping my family,” he said.

A tea farmer in ward one, Zacharia Musuko, who is one of the 500 beneficiaries

of the scheme, said before 2000 he was paying his children’s school fees and supporting his family using the money earned from tea farming.

“Farmers fell on hard times in 2000 when the political and economical situation in the country started to deteriorate. Tea and coffee, which had been our major cash crops, was no longer viable. This programme will revive the good old days we used to enjoy in thisarea,” said Musuko.

Consistent support

World Vision Area Development Programme Coordinator for the area, Abraham Mazulu, said it was important to provide consistent help for small scale farmers.

“Approximately 1 500 households in the area earn their living from either growing or selling tea.By supporting tea and coffee production we are ensuring that communities become productive. This project has managed to provide a consistent and sustainable source of livelihood for the beneficiary households,” said Mazulu.

According to the Zimbabwe Coffee Mill Ltd, coffee production has been in decline since 2000.

“Since the year 2000 coffee and tea production has faced numerous challenges. Prior to this programme smallholders were contributing only one percent of coffee production in the country. Now the production has increased to about 5 percent.There is still room for greater improvement,” said Josephat Rushinga, Zimbabwe Coffee Mill Ltd manager.

About 90 percent of coffee produced in the country is exported to Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United States of America and Canada.

Post published in: Agriculture

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