The rising prices of goods and services is negatively affecting most farming activities in some parts of Manicaland Province resulting in losses and reduced viability of their farming business ventures.
Edmore Kanyange, chairperson of the Nyamusosa Credit and Savings Coop, told journalists on a tour of rural projects in Makoni, Mutasa and Mutare districts that rapidly changing prices of inputs, fuel and agricultural produce was having a severe impact on their farming business activities.
“Our tractor hiring services business has been affected by fuel price increases,” he said.
“We charge per hectare and when you go to buy fuel, you find the price has changed. This is eroding our earnings and the viability of our operations.
“We are now being forced to charge US$100 per hectare to cushion ourselves from rising fuel costs. In some cases we are forced to do barter trade just to survive. A farmer can for instance pay us with goats or cattle.”
Rapidly changing market prices for their produce was also eroding their earnings.
“Prices are changing fast and we are not up to date with price changes on the market. We feel the impact when we want to buy inputs.
“Some hardware suppliers are demanding forex, and when you want to buy in local currency the prices are so high. It’s a major problem for us.”
The Nyamusosa Coop started in 2015 and has 170 members, who are involved in various agricultural projects.
It is a major beneficiary of the Livelihoods and Food Security Program (LSFP) run by Practical Action and other partners.
The LSFP is part of the Improved Nutrition and Sustainable Production for Increased Resilience and Economic growth (INSPIRE) project funded by the UK’s Department of International Development and managed by the FAO.
It aims to improve agricultural productivity access to markets and nutrition in Makoni, Mutasa and Mutare rural districts.
The Nyamusosa group and others in Mutasa and Mutare rural districts have benefited extensively from Practical Action’s support through enhanced knowledge, practices and skills, promotion of viable business models, diverse market information, and increased access to rural finance and women empowerment. Most groups are involved in tractor services, hatchery services, horticulture, seed production, goat, pig, beef, chicken rearing and beekeeping. Some were doing agro-processing to add value to their products.
Despite the difficult economic environment, the Nyamusosa group now has 27 turkeys, seven pigs, 50 free range chickens, 4 040 gum trees, 420 fruit trees and an agro processing unit which makes herbal teas, dried vegetables, peanut butter and roasted maize.
In addition to this it has produced 60 tonnes of seed for the Zimbabwe Super Seed company this year.
“We are happy with the incomes we are getting. We are now able to pay fees, buy clothes and other household needs,” said Agatha Maruma, the vice chairperson of the coop.
“We are producing biofortified maize and beans rich in vitamin A, zinc and iron. This is helping us improve the nutrition of our families.”
The group is producing orange maize and beans rich in iron and zinc. Rising fuel costs to run a generator to power irrigation is hampering their work.
Kanyange said they now want support to procure a solar system to help them reduce their production cost and adopt environmentally friendly farming approaches.
Said Memory Nyagumbo of the Takwirira group in the Zindi area of Honde Valley: “Rising prices have hit us badly. We are just starting our chicken rearing business and rapidly changing prices of chicken feed and vaccines is making our business unviable.
“Market changes are so fast and everything has become unpredictable. This makes things harder for us to plan.”
Munyaradzi Vuso, another farmer from the same scheme said power cuts were also affecting their hatchery business.
“We run a hatchery service, and this depends heavily on electricity,” he said. “When there is no power our business is affected. We are now planning to install a solar system to make sure our operations are smooth.”
Other farmers in Marange and Headlands expressed concerns over rising transport costs, which were now eroding their earnings.
Norah Mwatsuku of Chanakira Village in Marange complained of the high cost of vaccines for goats and chickens.
“The drugs are getting expensive and when you calculate your profit, it becomes clear that we are working for nothing,” she said. “I’m not too sure how NGOs and the Government can help us on these matters. The future of our farming activities looks uncertain, and we have to find solutions to address this.”
Members of the Senda Cooperative group also lamented the rising cost of seed, fertiliser and other inputs.
“Price hikes are now a nightmare for us,” said Caroline Phiri, a member of the cooperative.
“Vaccines are very expensive now. The price of one drug, for instance, rose from $60 to $160 in one day; just imagine. This is not sustainable for us as farmers. Our earnings are being eroded fast.
“We want Practical Action and other NGOs to help us source feed formulation machines so that we can cut costs related to stockfeeds.”
Nyagumbo concurred: “We need to produce our own stockfeed to cut costs. We need mixers to make our own animal feed. Prices are high, but we have to find local solutions to our problems. We cannot afford to give up.”