Peri-urban farmers revolutionise herb supply for mass markets
Mangaliso Lawrence Kabulika
PERI-URBAN farmers have capitalised on the growing demand for fresh, locally-grown herbs at mass markets to change market dynamics at Mbare Musika by providing consumers with a sustainable and affordable alternative.
Knowledge Transfer Africa Chief Executive Officer Dr Charles Dhewa yesterday revealed that a significant number of fresh herbs being sold at many mass markets such as Mbare Musika were coming from peri-urban producers.
“Our mass markets are now accommodating a variety of commodities for various consumers. The fresh herbs are mainly used by the Indian community in Zimbabwe and the local chefs as their flavouring as part of their creativity in the kitchen and restaurants.
“By utilising innovative farming techniques and making the most of available land on the outskirts of the city, they have managed to cultivate a diverse range of herbs, meeting the increasing demand in both retail and wholesale markets,” Dr Dhewa observed.
Some of the herbs being incorporated into the markets include jalapeño, mint, white carrot, leeks, radish, parsley, coriander, celery and basil.
Peri-agriculture plays a plays a critical role in sustaining food security and livelihoods of urban communities.
It also provides income and employment opportunities, added Dr Dhewa.
With urbanisation on the increase, peri-urban farming closes the food supply demand gap as growing populations of the world now live in urban settlements, hence food production by urban residents has become an increasingly important strategy to mitigate food insecurity.
In light of the above, the Government and various stakeholders has now incorporated these farmers into their various farming programmes such as the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, as it pushes to empower farmers, boost production, and ensure the sustained growth of this emerging sector in line with the Presidential mantra of leaving no one and no place behind.
The advantages of peri-urban farming are manifold. By reducing the distance between production and consumption, these farmers can significantly minimise transport costs and the carbon footprint associated with long-distance food distribution. Moreover, the locally-grown herbs are harvested at their peak freshness, ensuring superior quality and flavour for consumers.
According a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), peri-urban agriculture is one of the key pillars of the initiatives through which people can foster sustainable and climate-resilient practices and technologies to improve local food production in urban and peri-urban areas.
Zimbabwe Integrated Commercial Farmers Union (ZICFU) president Mrs Mayiwepi Jiti said peri-urban farming has emerged as a crucial solution to address food security challenges and promote sustainable agricultural practices in Zimbabwe.
“By utilising available land resources on the outskirts of urban centres, peri-urban farmers contribute significantly to the national food basket, reducing reliance on imports and enhance self-sufficiency. Moreover, this form of farming promotes the adoption of environmentally friendly techniques such as organic farming and agroforestry, thus mitigating the adverse effects of climate change,” said Mrs Jiti.
In Zimbabwe, peri-urban farming is practised in residential stands, open municipal spaces and peri-urban plots.