“Life in the diaspora was not rosy as I played cat and mouse with the police when my documents expired,” said Albert Musasa (35), a tobacco grower based in Marondera.
“I lived from hand to mouth. There was no job security. Life was simply unbearable. This experience was a wake up call to head back home. I was raised in a tobacco growing family. My father and all my kinsmen are tobacco farmers save for my brother who is into horticulture.
“I thought to myself, I have experience in agriculture, having worked for an agriculture company before and have many friends who are agronomists and extension officers.
“I decided to come back home and become a farmer. Farming was the answer to my woes. I started off with a hectare. Four years later I am now growing six hectares of tobacco.
“I have passion for the crop and have also gained immense knowledge on tobacco production. In short, I can say I love growing tobacco.
“The returns have been good. I have invested in a chicken project, bought a Fiat tractor, Isuzu KB 280 and a Toyota Hiace. I have ascended from being an employee to an employer,” he said with a chuckle.
“I work hard and that is the reason I obtain good prices,” he added more seriously. “I grew KRK26 which yielded more than 30 000 kgs on dryland. My highest price was $4,99 and my average was $3,00 per kg. For the first time my scrap fetched $2,00 per kg.
“To be a successful tobacco farmer, you need to plan and prepare for the season. I have done my land preparation and have applied requisite chemicals. “I have made my ridges so that I can trap the moisture that is within the soil. After ridging I will apply fertiliser.
“We plant 15 000 tobacco plants per hectare. Of the 90 000 plants on my six hectare plot, I know each and every plant. If there is a plant with shrugging leaves I am able to intervene with an appropriate solution. Tobacco is not for cellphone farmers. One ought to be on the ground. One other thing is, tobacco does not want short cuts.
“Of concern are tobacco farmers who are still to destroy their stalks from last season as this will encourage carry-over of pests and diseases. “I have discovered a market for stalks as they are used in preparing horse feed.
“Tobacco farming is not all a bed of roses. Last season I had a faulty barn which resulted in some losses. I am now working on the construction of rocket barns to avoid unnecessary hassles come the 2017 /2018 season.
“I urge other tobacco farmers to invest in establishing gum tree woodlots as a way of curbing deforestation and protecting the environment. “I rely on gum trees off-cuts that I buy from Hunyani for curing.
“I realised the need to produce tobacco in a sustainable manner hence I established a woodlot a year ago. Gum trees are easy to grow as they mainly need treatment during their seedbeds stage and thereafter they only need fertiliser and water.”
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