Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
SONDELANI Ranch in Matobo District, Matabeleland South Province has acquired a state-of-the-art tomato processing plant for the production of purée as part of its efforts to enhance its revenue generation through adding value to the fruit.
Sondelani Ranch is an agro-processing business run by the Cunningham family. Turning Matabeleland Green (TMG) co-director Reverend Patson Netha said the plant which has the capacity of processing 150 tonnes of tomatoes per day was bought in Italy with other components of the machinery being sought from different countries overseas.
Rev Netha, however, could not be drawn into divulging the cost of the machinery. TMG is a programme that started in 2013 which involves various churches in Matabeleland. It was founded on the belief that the productive engine of agriculture rests on small-scale farmers and that the right training and vision can help to multiply the productive potential of their vibrant business minds. The organisation is the one responsible for training farmers that would take their produce to the tomato processing plant.
“The processing plant is already here, it’s there in Bulawayo and we are expecting it to be up in the next two months. We have already started requesting farmers to embark on tomato production so that this coming tomato season we will be able to start production,” said Rev Netha.
He said TMG was expecting to gather tomatoes in various parts of the country since the TMG agricultural concept has since been introduced in all the provinces.
“We are covering the whole nation, we have trained communal farmers and we are still in the process of training more to ensure that they produce tomatoes and then those tomatoes will be taken to the puree factory so that we will be able to produce tomato puree,” said Rev Netha.
Tomato purée is a thick, red paste or concentrate made from crushed tomato pulp that has been cooked and reduced.
It is widely produced and used in Mediterranean countries, where it is added to dishes to give them a bright colour and a pronounced tomato flavour.
The difference between tomato paste, tomato purée, and tomato sauce is consistency; tomato puree has a thicker consistency and a deeper flavour than sauce.
“The processing of tomatoes is in line with Zim Asset’s cluster of value addition and beneficiation that’s what we are trying to do. It is easier to sell these tomatoes out of the country for the export market when they are processed,” said Rev Netha.
Over 300 households mostly elderly headed families in Ward 16 are also benefiting through TMG’s poultry project.
“Most of these farmers are those into poultry and are the aged. The oldest that we have is 86 years old and both her and the husband are looking after 2 000 chickens. This is one of the projects that have done so well here. Some of the beneficiaries have gone out to even drill boreholes for themselves because of the money they are getting from the chickens. If you have 50 people who are doing that surely you will agree with me that it makes business sense.
“It’s an (poultry) ongoing project that we expect to lead the beneficiaries into tomatoes, butternut and many other horticultural crops. That is what we are doing in this area. It all started simply by making sure that the community around sees what is happening and they also do it. I’m putting it this simply but when we started it was not easy, there was a lot of jealousy. People would actually put fire onto others’ fowl runs . . .,” said Rev Netha.