Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
FARMERS have said the impending amalgamation of farmers unions will go a long way in addressing the challenges they are facing and contribute to the growth of the sector.
The formation of the union to be named as the Federation of Agricultural Unions has been on the cards for about five years and the latest call came at a farmers’ federation meeting in Harare two weeks ago.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union president Mr Abdul Nyathi said there was growing interest in the formation of an amalgamated farmers union to look into issues that affect agriculture and come up with ways of improving the sector.
“It was left upon individual farmers’ union to come up with a strategy of what steps should be taken towards forming one union. Farmers are interested in that agenda but it is important to note that we cannot go on to form a union without going the Apex way which is a federation of farmers unions,” said Mr Nyathi.
He said each farmers’ union was in the process of consulting its members on the prospects of merging into a single union.
“We are in the process of making consultations with our respective members as individual farmers’ unions on how best we could come up with one union as well as to vote for or against the formation of such a union. These farmers’ unions were formed with variances in terms of the agricultural services each needed and their type of representation also differs. As it is, we defer since some have many members while some have next to none and these issues need to be considered when we are moving towards one union,” said Mr Nyathi.
ZFU is the largest farmers’ interest organisation in Zimbabwe and it represents over a million farming households. The union draws its membership from the communal, resettlement, small-scale commercial, peri-urban plot holders, A1; A2 and large-scale commercial farmers with individuals voluntarily joining the organisation.
There are basically four farmers’ unions in the country namely ZFU, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU), Commercial ‘ Union (CFU) and Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union which were formed under an Act of Parliament.
CFU vice-president Mr Peter Steyl said the merging of farmers’ unions would go a long way towards improving co-operation between smallholder farmers and commercial farmers towards improving the country’s agricultural sector.
“I am in favour of the idea because as farmers we basically face the same problems which we can easily resolve if we are one. We also have to take cognizance of the fact that small scale farmers need to learn from large scale farmers…,” said Mr Steyl.
ZCFU vice-president-commodities Mrs Portia Gwenzi
Mrs Portia Gwenzi said it was prudent for farmers to form a single body so as to create a comprehensive database as well as to collectively work together towards improving the country’s agricultural sector.
“The purpose of having one union is to work together and talk with one voice seeing that farmers’ challenges are the same. We also want Zimbabweans to know that farmers are there to produce food for them. A strong farmers’ organisation is very important to avoid illegal trading as well as to encourage exports which will enable the country to get the much-needed foreign currency,’’ she said.
“We also endeavour to come up with a database to enable us know to the needs by various farmers or what they produce in their respective provinces. Forming of one union will also enable farmers to come to a common ground on farming issues and aim at improving production, knowledge and uplifting each other,” she said.
Mrs Gwenzi said over the years the country’s crop yields were not being hindered by the lack of knowledge and skills but by the lack of financial resources. “Farmers need a special loan facility with a loan tenor being three years or more. As farmers we need to be bankable and lead by example. We should avoid donor funding but get loans and be responsible to pay back,” she said.