When her husband passed away 10 years ago, Annah Kashiri was determined to do whatever might be necessary to take care of and educate her three children.
With the help of the USAID’s Productive Agriculture Project gathered her strength and took over the running of the 10-hectare family farm that specialised in growing tobacco and maize.
The project was implemented by the Zimbabwe Rural Resources Centre (ZRRC) in 2012. The project manager, Farai Sithole, told this reporter that an important component of the organisation’s approach was and is to address the lack of access to financial services, a challenge many farmers face.
“As part of our mechanisation and finance activity, the Productive Agriculture Project works with local farmers to connect them to financial resources. With support, smallholders gain a foothold and discover new ways of improving their farming practices and productivity, including the use of modern equipment like tractors,” said Sithole.
The project has so far provided grants to 10 male and female farmers in Mutare district for 25% percent of the tractor’s value. Sithole explained: “This project has helped farmers to access loans from regional micro finance institutions. The grant’s terms oblige farmers to pay 50% of the total cost and retain a minimum of 25% as a loan from a local bank.”
As a widow, Kashiri was faced with one challenge after another. The farm lacked good-quality agricultural machinery. Her husband had left an old malfunctioning tractor behind that was not powerful enough to plough an entire field. As a result she kept falling behind in the season.
But thanks to assistance from the project she was able to apply for the tractor grant, which supports farmers to obtain good-quality tractors. After a competitive selection process, Kashiri was awarded a project grant and in January 2013 bought a new tractor MTZ-82 for $15,800.
“The access to finance opened up a world of opportunity for me,” she said. Despite the time dedicated to raising her three children, she remains an active, hard-working farmer. With her success on the field she is described as the model of a woman who has overcome challenging rural conditions.
Since Kashiri purchased the tractor, life for her and her family has changed. She now efficiently ploughs entire fields on her farm and also provides services to her neighbours.
She hopes to increase the productivity of her own and nearby farms. “Things have changed greatly. I am now producing better quality tobacco and I want to give credit to the project that opened doors for better farming opportunities,” she said.
She also hires out the tractor to other farms, thereby earning additional income. “I know that other farmers, using my new tractor, will have a better harvest and better living conditions for their families,” said Kashiri.
Two years after the project began, the economic benefits to the community are evident. More arable land is being planted and higher tobacco and maize yields are being realised.
For Kashiri and others the tractor also provides much-needed transport for produce to local markets and raw materials like seeds, fertiliser and timber to homesteads.
The Agriculture Extension Office in the district, Claris Ndiweni, said the tractor was a real boon to farming and permanent agriculture in the area.
It has provided an important service to the surrounding farmers as well as they hire the tractor for a small fee to plough, harvest, fertilize or for transport.Post published in: Gender Equality