The Sunday News
Nkosilathi Sibanda, Sunday News Correspondent
A SMART agricultural partnership between a leading tourism company and small holder farmers in villages that surround conservancies in Hwange National Park has started to bear fruit, as farmers are reaping rewards of a mega harvest of small grain crops.
African Safari Walks, a tourism firm operating in Hwange, last November chipped in with farm implements such as ox-drawn ploughs that were used by hundreds of villagers from Chezhou, Jambezi and Lumbora areas as they prepared for the bountiful rainy season that ended in March. The ox-drawn ploughs were bought out of tourism and wildlife conservancy funds from African Walks Safaris, a project dubbed “The Community Plough-back Programme”.
The success story complements the Agriculture and Food security system Transformative Strategy (AFTSTS) launched by the Government in support of agriculture production, productivity and growth. A visit by Sunday News to one of the villages last week gave ample evidence that the farmers were at a position to sell their finger millet and sorghum harvest and also remain food sufficient for the rest of the year.
Farmers in Hwange had for long been failing to farm meaningfully owing to dry spells in successive farming seasons. Most of the villagers do not own any farm implements and before the joint venture with African Walks Safaris, some would dare not to till their land. African Safari Walks director Mr Kaz Dube said they are pleased that their project has been a success.
“This a milestone achievement. Tourism funds backed this community plough back programme that has brought food to the table. We thank the tourists who use African Safari Walks who have made it possible for us to plough back into the community. As a company we saw it prudent to play a part and assist communities that live in harmony with nature in the areas that we operate. By providing farming implements to the families, the aim is to empower and make them realise the importance of conserving wildlife.”
Villagers in Hwange District are at the heart of the human-wildlife conflict zone and oftentimes have to deal with errant poachers. The agriculture partnership, Mr Dube said, was going to strengthen efforts to combat poaching and raise awareness on the value of nature conservation.
Community leaders in rural Hwange hailed the programme which they said will empower them and enable them to be productive.
In an interview, a farmer in Jambezi, Mr Lameck Nyoni said they are yet to quantify their harvest but indications are high that every family will have a surplus. He said their planning to initiate a community silo and a seed bank.
“We now talk of a bumper harvest like everyone else countrywide. Of course, we have not figured how much we are to reap but it is plenty, especially our small grains and nuts. What is left for us to complement African Safari Walks by building a seed bank and possibly a community granary,” he said.