Farmer turns chrome fields into greenbelt

Located about 70km from Kwekwe and 50km from Mvuma is the 120-hectare Mahamara Farm.

The farm is in the midst of chrome claims and one would not think or dream of witnessing successful farming activity.

The green wheat crop at Mahamara Farm is in total contrast to the surrounding farms, plots and claims where owners and companies like Zimasco and ZimAlloys are busy extracting chrome ore as witnessed by mountains and heaps of ore and soil along the road.

Run by a 33-year-old young farmer, Cde John Muchenje, Mahamara Farm is a true indication of successful farming and at large the success of the agrarian reform which was started in 2000 and has now been supported by Command Agriculture which has seen the Government availing farming inputs for wheat, tobacco and maize to the likes of Cde Muchenje.

He said his father, Francis, who died in 2007 was a war veteran while his mother, Sekai, is a war collaborator-cum-qualified farmer.

“I was encouraged by my parents who always urged me to make use of the land and take it as a crucial legacy. My mother is a qualified farmer and they have been very supportive of the Agrarian Reform and Command Agriculture,” said Cde Muchenje.

On the 40ha field of winter wheat, this reporter witnessed a healthy crop which has an expected yield of 280 tonnes.

The crop was being watered by a centre pivot under the watchful eye of farm manager Mr Jacob Muchenje.

“To be successful, I had to employ professionals hey, gone are the days of cellphone farming. So there is a farm manager Mr Jacob Muchenje and is assisted by the likes of Mr Dione Fambisai,” he said.

Cde Muchenje said he realised his dream of becoming a successful farmer when he was challenged by President Mnangagwa back in 2016 after touring the then Vice President’s farm in Sherwood Block, Kwekwe.

“When I meet His Excellency Cde ED Mnangagwa in 2016 after touring his farm in Sherwood, he challenged me to do commercial farming so that I contribute directly to the growth of the economy hence I ventured into large scale farming.

“Now I have 40ha of winter wheat under Command Wheat, 30ha soya beans Command Agriculture, 10ha of tobacco, 20ha maize under Command Agriculture and 20ha of sugar beans contract farming,” he said.

Cde Muchenje who has invested in a centre pivot and a tractor among other farming equipment said he was facing challenges such as the need for state-of-the-art combine harvesters and more tractors.

“I don’t have a combine harvester among other essential farming equipment needed. So when it is harvesting time I have to hire or be told to wait until for some time. Hiring is expensive and it weighs me down. So I call on the Government to avail cheap farming equipment for young farmers,” he said.

Cde Muchenje said agriculture and youth is a compatible pair, adding that for the country to retain its status as the breadbasket of Southern Africa, more youths should be supported with land and farming equipment for the dream to be realised.

In his speech after being sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new President on November 24, President Mnangagwa stressed the role of the country’s land reform farmers in the country’s economic recovery.

And they have since excelled.

The country produced more maize in 2017 than was ever grown by white farmers, who have repeatedly been praised for making the country into the breadbasket of Africa.

Maize production in 2017 was 2,2 million tonnes and is the highest in two decades and the success of it has been the Command Agriculture programme spearheaded by the Government.

According to an online publication  the Conversation  land reform is a Zimbabwean success story and will be the basis for economic recovery under President Mnangagwa

“Good rains helped, but even the United States Department of Agriculture said the huge increase in maize production was mainly due to favourable weather conditions and a special programme for import substitution, commonly termed as Command Agriculture. That programme was implemented by (President) Mnangagwa, when he was vice president.

“Under the programme, land reform farmers signed contracts for a certain number of hectares and agreed to sell at least five tonnes of maize per hectare to the Grain Marketing Board. The Government provided seed, fertiliser and if needed, tractors and fuel for ploughing, and the cost was deducted from the sale price of the maize.

“Compared to 2011, another good rainfall year, maize production jumped 700 000 tonnes  more than half of which was due to the Command Agriculture programme,” reads a part from the Conversation.

President Mnangagwa earlier this year announced that the programme would be expanded for the coming agricultural season when more good rains are also forecast.

Cde Muchenje said he has support from the Zanu-PF Midlands province chairperson and Chirumanzu-Zibagwe MP-elect Cde Prosper Machando whom he credits for protecting the interests of the youth by ensuring that they are given more opportunities to venture into farming.

“As you might have seen, this area boosts more chrome ore reserves or claims. We have companies like Zimasco and individuals who benefited from the claims and are benefiting as they go underground mining and her I am concentrating on the top of the soil or land doing farming,” he said.

“Chirumanzu South MP-elect Cde Barbara Rwodzi also assisted in professionalising the farming business so that youth in the constituency, district and province can come and witness what other youths are doing in the same Province. I am also getting farming guidance from Mr Masiiwa, Chirumanzu District Agritex Officer.”

Command Agriculture, Cde Muchenje said has been assisting farmers throughout the country with inputs.

“I would like to thank His Excellency for such an initiative in the country and his support to the youth in agriculture so that youths take agriculture as a noble profession,” said the accountant by profession.

Cde Muchenje is a holder of a Bachelor of Accountancy Degree and is also studying towards ICSAZ and ICPAZ. - Herald