Sydney Kawadza Senior Features Writer
It is a rare sight for a Zimbabwean farmer to wear a smile in the drought dissipated current cropping season. However, 37-year-old Tawanda Mufudze of Lot 2 Avalon Farm in Hurungwe District can afford to smile as he admires his maturing crop.He is expecting a bumper harvest despite the erratic rainfall that has been experienced so far.
“Looking at the weather pattern, our yield will not be that bad because I am looking at harvesting four tonnes per hectare from the 15ha under maize.
“I am also looking at getting 36 tonnes from the 13ha we have put under tobacco this season,” he said.
Mupfudze also has a lush five hectares of groundnuts on the plot.
Zimbabwe, like most of sub-Saharan Africa countries, is faced with a severe drought that is threatening to severely curtail yields this season.
But Mufudze’s smile is clouded by uncertainty as his claim to the piece of land is being contested.
The joys of a prospective bumper harvest are dampened as Mufudze reminisces on his ordeal with other farmers targeting his piece of land.
“The challenges I am facing now are people coming with offer letters claiming to have been allocated land on the same farm I have been producing from since 2003.
“I am not sure if there are people manufacturing these offer letters because many people have claimed this land and I do not understand if they get the letters to disturb my farming.”
Mupfudze last year lost tobacco valued by Agritex officials at $7 000 when a prospective farmer with an offer letter slashed the crop to push him out.
He invested thousands of dollars preparing his land this year.
Mupfudze’s case was corroborated by Zinwa’s Angwa-Rukomichi Sub-Catchement Area chairman Cde Donnie Nxele who said while the farmers had challenges, the issue of offer letters should be dealt with decisively.
“We still face challenges such as inputs and capital. The Presidential Input Scheme has also been helpful but we have situations where we find farmers in a desperate situation over land tenure issues,” he said.
Cde Nxele said some farmers, even those producing in abundance, were living in constant fear of being pushed off their farms.
“We are having offer letters emanating from nowhere. One can come with an offer letter today, tomorrow another one comes disrupting agricultural activities,” he said.
“It is very difficult to plan when one does not have the security to claim the piece of land he is working on.”
He urged Government to ensure that farmers are protected.
“There are people who take farming quite seriously. We cannot offer land for speculative purposes because most people who benefited from the land redistribution programme are out there.
“The new problem is the one where people with new offer letters are disturbing our activities,” Cde Nxele.
Mupfudze’s case is not isolated as indicated by recent reports of clashes at Walescot Farm in Chakari where Thomas Mamina has been battling settlers who have occupied his farm.
Mamina bought the farm from its previous owners in 1999.
Agronomist Mr Midway Bhunu urged Government to act on the unwarranted chaos that is threatening agricultural production in Zimbabwe.
“We are facing a critical situation when Government is working to ensure food security according to the Zim-Asset policy document.
“Issues to do with land tenure, issues of security for smallholder farmers have brought confusion in the sector hence the need for Government, farmers unions, stakeholders and the value chain actors to sit down and come up with sustainable solutions to this scourge.”
He added: “We know Government has committed itself to embark on a land audit to deal with multiple land ownership but it is also critical to identify land that is being under-utilised.”
Mr Bhunu challenged Government to deal with corrupt officers who take advantage of unfortunate farmers.
“These are people of influence and we expect the minister to intervene and address the issue as a matter of urgency,” Mr Bhunu.
Land and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora acknowledged the problems associated with corrupt officials in his ministry.
He said the ministry was investigating cases reported to his office.
“We have no problems with people who seek offer letters when they identify idle land and those who lay claim to that land have seven days to challenge why they should not lose the farm.
“However, we expect the affected farmers to approach our land officers in their areas and when they are not satisfied they can come to our headquarters so that we act on the problems,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mupfudze can be counted among farmers who have contributed to the success of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme.
Growing up in a family where his father and brother are renowned farmers, Mupfudze went straight into agriculture when he completed his secondary education.
He moved to Avalon Farm in 2003.
While he struggled in the first few years, Mupfudze struck gold in 2009, coincidentally, the same year Zimbabwe adopted the multi-currency system.
“I started receiving funding from financial institutions and that year I harvested 20 tonnes of maize from a 7-hectare piece of land.
“We also harvested 17 tonnes of tobacco from five hectares in that boom year.”
The 115ha Avalon Farm was divided into three and Mupfudze currently employs 42 workers on Lot 2.
“Zimbabwe is a peaceful country and for us to maintain this we need to ensure food security. This is the challenge we have as farmers as we need to ensure maximum productivity on the land,” he said.
The thrust of the Food Security and Nutrition Cluster, according to the Zim-Asset policy document, is to create a self-sufficient and food surplus economy and see Zimbabwe re-emerge as the “bread basket of Southern Africa”.
Ultimately, it seeks to build a prosperous, diverse and competitive food security and nutrition sector that contributes to national development through the provision of an enabling environment for sustainable economic empowerment and social transformation.
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