The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
MATABELELAND South Agricultural Show is this year poised to hold one of the biggest exhibitions as organisers seek to improve production on the back of massive support from Government under the Command Livestock Programme.
The Matabeleland South Agricultural Show Society executive led by its president, Mr George Chipengo has not only played a significant part in overseeing the rehabilitation of most of the derelict infrastructure at the exhibition centre but it has also been pivotal in ensuring an increase in exhibitors participating at the provincial showcase.
Mr Chipengo, one of the most successful crop production farmers in Gwanda District assumed office last year.
“I believe for a show to grow relevant infrastructure should be put in place and as such we had to ensure that we get rid of obsolete structures through modernising it,” said Mr Chipengo.
Apart from ensuring the renovation of buildings at the exhibition centre, the Show Society has overseen the upgrading of its electricity and water infrastructure.
“We have also upgraded our electricity infrastructure and modernised it, ensuring that our tenants and exhibitors will be using individual pre-paid meters. We have also drilled a high water yielding borehole to supply the entire showgrounds,” said Mr Chipengo.
The Show Society also rehabilitated and modernised its cattle auction sale pens, which is its major revenue earner.
“We have spruced up our pens including improving watering facilities for the animals. To add to that we brought in an experienced auctioneer in the form of CC Sales and the fortnight auctions are attracting sellers and buyers of up to 80 and as such we have seen our revenue going up,” said Mr Chipengo.
He said the Show Society has made significant headways in clearing its legacy debts to service providers.
A number of corporates have approached the Show Society with a view of setting up exhibition pavilions at the showgrounds.
“We have had a number of our traditional exhibitors approaching us with a view of putting up permanent exhibition structures. The Department of the Registrar General has already started construction while Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Nyaradzo Group have submitted their plans,” said Mr Chipengo.
Plans are also underway to construct hostels to accommodate communal farmers coming from various districts within the province.
“We have sought a partner who will assist us to construct hostels for farmers coming from various districts in the province that will be exhibiting their produce at the hall. These farmers have over the years been facing challenges with finding accommodation,” said Mr Chipengo.
The Show Society is also looking forward to turning its arena into a recreational and sporting facility.
“We are also planning to turn our arena into a recreational place suitable to host weddings and various outdoor activities including sporting events. If this comes to fruition we will be hiring it out and that way we will increase our revenue generating activities,” said Mr Chipengo.
He said the massive infrastructural development taking place in Gwanda Town was likely to catapult to the growth of Matabeleland South Agricultural Show.
Mr Chipengo said preparations for this year’s exhibition, which would be held from 16 to 18 August, were underway although they were slightly hampered due to the pre-election and election period.
This year’s exhibition would be officially opened by Pretoria Portland Cement managing director Mr Kelibone Masiyane and would be held under the theme: “Sustainable Development through Agriculture”.
“We are ready for the show and we are hoping it can be bigger than last year’s edition. We have had a lot of inquiries from exhibitors and suppliers to the extent that we are anticipating a much bigger exhibition. Although our preparations were hampered by election period, which also saw most of the Society management being involved leading to us operating with a skeletal team to carry out the preparatory work,” said Mr Chipengo.
The Show Society’s official partner Agriseed is expected to assist to refurbish the terraces and shed at the arena, erect billboards, pitch temporary gazebos within the showground as well as provide prizes for farmers participating at the exhibition.
“Last year we couldn’t put up a good livestock exhibition due to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease as well as drought.
However, this year we are expecting a lot of livestock exhibitions, especially cattle. We have had a lot of commercial farmers showing interest to come.
“We are looking at having very good quality livestock being exhibited at this year’s show and to that effect we are having one commercial farmer of L2 Tuli Stud exhibiting as well. We are also going to showcase a wide range of small stock ranging from goats, pigs, and sheep among others,” he said.