Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
THE country’s Agricultural Show Societies have praised the formation of their umbrella body, the National Association of Show Societies of Zimbabwe (NAASSZ) as a major stride towards improving their exhibitions.
A number of representatives of Agricultural Show Societies interviewed by Sunday Business after the launch of NAASSZ at the Harare Agricultural Show on Friday said the formation of the association would enable the country’s Agricultural Show Societies to share ideas aimed at enhancing their showcases.
“We as a Show Society, feel through joining others, we will learn more and even improve the way of presenting our show because the other show societies have certain experiences which we don’t have, that we feel we will learn from them as we move with them,” said Whange Show Society chairman, Mr Herbert Sansole.
He said NAASSZ would also come in handy in ensuring that there would be no clash of dates for the hosting of exhibitions by its members in an effort to avoid counter attractions.
“We feel having a national association will help us not to clash in terms of hosting our shows at the same time. For instance three years back when Gwanda was having a show we also had a show in Hwange but our seed suppliers were the same so there was this tag of war about where they should go, so coming up with an association will help us to co-ordinate,” said Mr Sansole.
He however, said Whange Show Society has over the years been facing financial challenges largely owing to demise of Hwange Colliery Company Limited and consequently its failure to pay its employees over the past four years.
“Financial constraint is the major challenge we face, the fact being that the Hwange community largely relies on the colliery.
Colliery employees have not been receiving any meaningful salaries for the last four years, because of that it affected show attendance.
“The financial and economic problems are not only peculiar to us, we know it’s a national problem but we are hard hit in Hwange because the major part of our community relies on the colliery which has not been paying its employees,” said Mr Sansole.
Bulawayo Agricultural Society administrative officer, Mrs Natalie Adlam said the formation of NAASSZ would enable the show societies to present their grievances as one voice.
“I think as show societies, we can now speak with one voice instead of having individuals trying to make representation to Government on policies that should be beneficial to all of us and our farmers,” she said.
Mrs Adlam further reiterated Mr Sansole’s sentiments that most show societies were faced with financial constraints.
“Mostly Show Societies have been faced with challenges of funding and also getting the business section involved in the agriculture sector because we are basically an agricultural-based economy. We (Bulawayo Agricultural Society) have been able to self fund ourselves but we haven’t had cattle sales for quite a long time so we are at a point where we need other show societies to assist us,” she said.
Mashonaland East Agricultural Show Society general manager Mr Tonderai Choga was also of the same view with Mr Sansole and Mrs Adlam’s stating that: “What we have been seeing is that there was a lot of fragmentation, with each show society doing what it feels to do but we believe through this amalgamation of forming one union as show societies we will be able to be heard when we raise issues that we think are of major concern. So we feel this is good for us and also it’s going to address the issue of dates because what has been happening is that we would have two provinces having shows on the same day, that doesn’t augur well in terms of having the best exhibitors or judges at the show. We also want to learn what show “A” is doing so if it is having a show on the same day with show “B”, the chances of learning is reduced”.
In his keynote address at the launch of NAASSZ, the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society life vice-president Dr Robbie Mupawose noted that financial challenges was impacting negatively on the running of most of the Agricultural Show Societies in the country.
“The current macro-economic environment has seen revenue for many show societies coming down substantially.
Consequently, sustaining operations of these primarily member-based and member-led societies has been a major challenge.
In many instances, annual membership fees are insignificant. Corporate sponsorship is dwindling and exhibitors and show goers numbers fluctuate annually but overall are on the decline.
“Clearly, the only way of improving operational performance, containing costs and streamlining activities is to have a common platform to meet, discuss, and share ideas on how to improve the collective image of shows. It is in this vein that the official launch of this NAASSZ should play a facilitatory and even catalytic role in ensuring that Agricultural Societies remain relevant in national agricultural development of Zimbabwe,” he said.