‘Hungry’ Mat North farmers selling presidential inputs

Some farmers in Hwange and Binga districts are reportedly selling the Presidential inputs under the Intwasa/Pfumvudza scheme citing hunger and economic hardship.

Government reintroduced the scheme, a climate proof presidential inputs programme to assist small scale farmers with limited access to farming resources to optimize production and ensure food security.

Under the scheme farmers have been receiving inputs that include fertilizers and seed for the 2020/2021 farming season.

However, some farmers are falling prey to unscrupulous dealers who take advantage of the economic hardships to buy mostly the fertilizers or exchange it for maize.

Villagers who spoke to CITE on condition of anonymity said they were left with no choice but to sell their fertilizers arguing that their families were facing starvation which was exacerbated by Covid-19.

“Covid-19 worsened the situation. As a result of the lockdown we could not work or source for money as movements were restricted. Our families sank deeper into poverty as result and we have not been getting any aid from government save for a few handouts here and there from donors,” said one villager from Mabale in Hwange.

Another villager who identified himself as Mudenda from Siachilaba in Binga said subsequent droughts coupled with low rainfall and poor soils had left them vulnerable to starvation.

“As you are aware we don’t get much rainfall here and if at all we do the soils are so poor that the yields are low. This has resulted in us being forced to sell or exchange for maize fertilizer or sometimes cotton seeds. Depending on the people buying one or two 50kg bags of fertilizers can get you a bag of maize. We have no food our children are hungry government seems to have forgotten about us. We last received food aid from Social Welfare sometime in February before lockdown,” he said.

A village head from Simwinde village said that farmers in his area were secretly selling the inputs to curb hunger.

“Farmers here received either a 5kg bag of maize or millet and a 50kg of fertilizer. However, the level of poverty in households is forcing some to sell them or exchange for mealie meal secretly to buyers from Bulawayo. If only government would try to address the food security aspect which was worsened by the coronavirus. It’s only yesterday that some people started receiving food aid from government since February. The hunger situation is bad and if nothing is done people may die, ” said the traditional leader on condition of anonymity.

An investigation by CITE revealed that dealers from Bulawayo and Harare were collaborating with locals to identify potential ‘clients’.

The dealers would be alerted by the locals who include influential community leaders of a pending delivery after which they would drive to the area.

By working with locals as proxies the dealers would after conniving with shop owners collect the fertilizers from shops.

Chief Nelukoba Dingani confirmed the developments arguing that climate change was fueling the problem as the inputs were being wasted due to low rainfall or droughts.

“Yes government is giving us inputs but people think it’s a waste of time and resources seen that there are no rains and when people plough they get low yields. This is what forces most to end up selling the inputs to these dealers. I think government should ensure that people are assisted knowledge on climate change and proper seed varieties,” said Chief Nelukoba.

He said though the government sponsored farming programme was a welcome development it was important to equip farmers not only with skills but equipment as the method was laborious.

“This initiative by government is a welcome development it was important to equip farmers not only with skills but equipment as the method was laborious which made some to end up not ploughing but selling their inputs. Farmers need to be taught and given seed varieties that are favorable to their environment.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)

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