Villagers lose livestock through barter

Some villagers in Tamandai area of Chipinge district survive mostly on barter trade because they do not have any money.

The bartered maize on sale at a profit to private millers in Mutare.
The bartered maize on sale at a profit to private millers in Mutare.

Even if they had cash, most retail shops closed down in 2007 during the hyperinflationary era, and have never re-opened. Tamandai is one of Zimbabwe’s remotest areas. It lies on the border with Mozambique, about 150km south of Chipinge.

Unscrupulous businesspeople from Mutare – some 300km away – are ripping off desperate villagers, exchanging basic commodities, which they transport to the area, for livestock. In most cases, no money changes hands.

“There is no other way we can survive,” said Joseph Mapungwana, 57. “We do not have any option but to barter trade.”

A beast is exchanged for about 150 litres of cooking oil and two cartons of laundry soap, while a goat is traded for 6×2 litres of cooking oil or one carton of soap. Some traders bring clothes to the village, which they exchange for produce such as maize, beans, sunflowers and groundnuts.

Joseph Mapungwana - There is no other way we can survive.
Joseph Mapungwana – There is no other way we can survive.

Another villager, Simon Mwoyoweshumba, who used to operate a diesel-powered grinding mill, said his business crumbled during the hyperinflationary period and he has been unable to revive it.

“We call upon government to establish a fund to assist distressed small businesses at growth points and business centres in remote areas,” added Mwoyoweshumba.

In a recent interview, village head Zondai Chemwanyisa blasted the visiting businesspeople, accusing them of short-changing the villagers in his area. “This predicament has forced the villagers to lose their livestock and farm products to the informal traders who have flooded my area,” said headman Chemwanyisa.

“These unscrupulous traders are ripping off villagers. I would like the police to come and arrest them,” he added. Some traders pay cash for livestock to enable villagers to pay school fees. But it is usually too little compared to the actual value of the livestock.

“I do not have the money to buy groceries and pay school fees,” said Cassias Chibvuri. “So whatever the small amount they offer will go towards school fees for my children.”

The traders said they were making profits through the resale of the livestock and farm produce at a higher price in Chipinge and Mutare.

“Times are hard for everyone and we are just trying to make ends meet. We barter the maize here and sell it at a profit to private millers in town,” said Fungai Nhete, a barter trader from Mutare.

“But at least we are serving the villagers by bringing groceries to their door steps,” he said.

Villagers have accused Zanu (PF) officials and war veterans of chasing away non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that used to provide them with food aid.

“There were some NGOs that used to give us food, but they have since stopped as the whole process was hijacked by Zanu (PF),” said one of the villagers.

“We now appeal to Zanu (PF) to reconsider its stance and wrong perceptions of NGOs that were providing us with food aid and re-establishing irrigation schemes,” the villager said.

Moses Maswera, MDC-T ward six development committee chairman, said the villagers would only be able to sustain themselves if NGOs were given the green light to establish irrigation schemes in the area again.

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