Women farmers plead for more govt support

Getrude Chakwizira has scooped several prices at provincial and district level since she began contesting agricultural show competitions five years ago. She was the overall winner of the 2012 Chinhoyi Agricultural Show held in Mashonaland West province.

“The quality of my crops improves every year as I gain expertise on how to get the best output,” she told The Zimbabwean, adding that that information sharing and education were critical components for successful farming.

“Experience is the best teacher. Failure to harvest quality crops pushed me towards establishing why my crops were poor and my harvest pathetic. Today, my crops bear testimony to the path that I have travelled as a farmer,” she said.

Chakwizira, a mother of five, was one of many female exhibitors showcasing their produce at the recent Harare Show. She stressed the importance of government support. “Failure to get any support from government demotivates small farmers and there are times when we get a raw deal from government institutions,” she said.

“Corruption is destroying the equitable distribution of these resources. Only a few individuals benefit,while the officials pocket the bulk of the inputs for their personal use,” she said.

Nyarai Magora from Shamva spoke of the importance of choosing a minister who is passionate about agriculture. She said small scale farmers had pinned their hopes on a new government to redress small-scale farmers’ challenges.

She believes that political will has the potential to turn around their fortunes. “We are hardly recognised,” lamented Magora. “Government sidelines us because they do not value our minute yet important contribution to the agricultural sector.”

Winnie Maromo said “Failure to get any form of assistance limits the hectares that we cultivate. I want to grow more crops.”

In the 1990s, Zimbabwe had one of the most developed industrial sectors in Africa with agriculture being the most important economic activity -contributing between 15 to 18 percent of gross domestic product.

The manufacturing sector depended on agriculture for over 60 percent of raw materials while the sector catered for over 40 percent of the country’s national export earnings.

Most analysts attribute the decline to the fast-track land redistribution exercise of 2000 and government’s failure to implement viable economic policies and rein control corruption and cronyism.

Fatima Tatire from Guruve said most rural women spent most of their time engaging in farming activities but their effort was hardly recognised.

“We are committed to farming but the government is failing to give us enough support for us to realise maximum yields,” she said. “The inputs are never on time and in most cases, when they come, they are not distributed fairly.

She buttressed the importance of putting into office a competent minister. “Ministers should be chosen on merit and because this is a very important harm of the economy, we hope that whoever will lead this sector is a results oriented individual,” she said.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, women are the custodians of food security in Africa with over two thirds of women employed in the agricultural sector.

African women produce nearly 90 percent of food on the continent and are responsible for growing, selling, buying and preparing food for their families. Despite being custodians of food security, women are marginalised and have limited control over agricultural resources such as land and farming inputs.

The recently adopted constitution encourages citizens to venture into agricultural activities, stating “The state must encourage people to grow and store adequate food.

Section 17: 1 (a) promotes gender balance, with the state taking a leading role in “promoting the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men”.

Self Help Development Foundation Director Wadzanai Vere said women were the vehicles of development who, once empowered, had the potential to turn around the moribund economy.

“Empowering a woman is empowering the nation, because the benefits cascade to the families, communities and the whole nation,” she said.

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