My name is Innocent Sigwadi. I am 33 years old. I studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Zimbabwe. I have worked for a number of years in agriculture, from the government sector as an agricultural economist, to the NGO sector as a business development officer, to the private sector. Most of my work has involved helping small rural farmers to improve their production and access to markets.
Improving livelihoods for hundreds of rural folk!
My project aims to increase household income and food security for hundreds of rural households in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe.
We will achieve this by improving yields of small holder farmers in irrigation schemes in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe and linking them to markets for their crops. Matabeleland is too dry for successful crop production without irrigation, but the farmers have no choice but to continue growing crops such as maize which is their staple crop food.
The farmers grow a variety of crops. The project will start with sugar beans, which have a relatively short growing period and a ready market in urban areas. Eventually we will move to other crops such as sorghum, millet and rapoko which will be processed and packaged for sale in urban areas.
We will engage and train farmers on improved farming practices to improve yield at a total cost of $500, including setting-up demonstration plots at project sites as part of the training process at a cost of $200.00.
We will provide an input loan to be repaid from the proceeds of the crop after the growing season of 90 days. We will provide inputs to 60 households (240 people assuming a household size of 4.4 people)
Each household will take care of one tenth of a hectare each, with a total of 6 hectares (15 acres), at a cost of $4,000.00 for seed, fertilizer, transport, insurance, etc. Profits will go into a revolving fund to finance successive seasons.
Target yield = 1.5 tonnes/hectare .
Total income = $10,800.00 = $108.00/household, $36.00/month = enough for food for a month!
We will improve access to inputs at discounted prices by bulking up the requirements of all project farmers. We will work at building lasting relationships between farmer groups through their leadership committees and the input suppliers.
The relationships will be sustainable because input suppliers have shown interest in engaging smallholder farmers, to the extent of offering to deliver inputs to irrigation schemes as long as the quantities are large enough.
We will train the committees on issues such as market information gathering, negotiating with the market and transporters.
The sugar beans will be sold to an agro-processing company in Bulawayo (the second largest city in Zimbabwe) which has agreed to start buying and packaging sugar beans from the irrigation schemes for sale to the public. This will provide a guaranteed market for smallholder farmers in irrigation schemes.
They model is likely to lead to a reduction in rural to urban migration as rural folk can earn an income from their activities.
Over the years, I have realized that rural farmers are very capable of producing good quality produce that can meet market requirements, but they do face some constraints that they need help with. The government, together with development partners, has been doing a lot of work towards rehabilitating existing irrigation schemes and building new ones in communal areas around the country.
These schemes are not being fully utilized. Farmers engage in methods that do not yield the best results, such as using seed retained from the previous season. Access to markets outside of their communities is poor so farmers end up consuming their produce instead of earning an income from it. However, there is a market that requires the produce but have no links with the producers.
Sugar beans are high in protein, which is good for household food security. Households can buy maize using the proceeds from the beans. The crop is good for the soil due to fixing of nitrogen, which benefits crops in rotation such as maize.
-recruit farmers in irrigation schemes to grow sugar beans and sign contracts
-train farmers on improved production
-purchase at discounted prices
-buy the produce after harvest
We have already found a market for sugar beans and discussed with a number of farmers about partnering with them. We have also discussed with suppliers of seeds, fertilizers and chemicals about accessing the inputs at discounted prices. We have started growing the crop to learn more lessons on how to achieve the best results
The success of the project will be measured by the number of farmers engaged, from training up to linking with the market, the number of hectares under production, the improvement in yield in number of tonnes per hectare from previous seasons and the income earned per farmer (household) from selling their beans. We will also check if there is an improvement in the yield of crops grown in the same plot after the sugar beans.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Innocent Sigwadi (Zimbabwe) – isigwadi[at]yahoo.co.uk
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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