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Head Under Water but Still Breathing Fine: Mountain of Hope Organic Producers Association Still Soldiering On Despite Drawbacks

After we discovered that smallholder rural farmer agriculture transformation should be a process that entirely centres, across all stages, on concrete farmer experiences, one that shuns some form of doctored farmer solutions without having a physical touch of the farmers’ actual situation present. It also came to our understanding that, the involvement of the practising farmer in the development process extends the donors’ room to grasp the actual state of all smallholder farmer activities that would be under implementation.

Leaving out the practising farmers on our way through the development ladder is like taking one rung up but eventually taking two rungs back because, the subject of development we would be trying to reach at the apex of the ladder entirely is centred on the practising farmer who would be left at the feet of the ladder.

Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre, through some funding from the DanChurchAid (DCA), hence organised for a development exercise which featured several farmer groups from different areas around Zimbabwe; wherein, the two parties engaged in a dialogue on discussing real situations affecting farmers, and the possible solutions that can be put in place in curbing some of these challenges, amongst them, the troubling subject of climate change. The dialogue sessions were of course farmer-led!

In these sessions, rural resource poor farmers were invited to share their experiences in the ongoing agricultural revolution, laying down possible solutions that could be adopted for the advancement of the revolution.

One of the visits that fascinated me amongst the several places we paid visits, was the Wedza visit, were we met the members of the Mountain of Hope Organic Producers Association, one of the few farmer associations that are still thriving even years after the donor(s) exited their areas.

Mountain of Hope was established in 2010 through the Garden Africa funded Organic Conservation Agriculture project, where, in its initial stages of its establishment, four individuals were selected for some couple of permaculture training workshops at Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre. One of the individuals who managed to attend the workshops, Mr. Clever Mapeta said, these workshops became a starting point in the development of their association and they have never ceased operation since then.

The association is found on a standing constitution and committee.

One of the group’s strengths is that, it is established on a healthy and diversified age dynamic system that incorporates both the middle aged and the old aged, with a range of 18 to 65 years amongst the 20 registered association members. Commenting on this issue, Mrs. Tracy Kashanje, the association’s executive treasurer said; the diversified aged dynamics amongst the group members created a system of shared responsibilities based on member capacity. She also added that; on the one hand, the involvement of the youth in the association was a move towards the sustenance and prolonging of the association’s life, while on the other hand, the old aged stood as guilds who rebuke the youth.

Maybe that could be the reason why the association was able to erect a farmer organic produce packshed market. Even though the building is yet to function fully, the farmers are still resuming organic horticulture production through okra, pepper, and tomato production, to mention but a few.

Although the association has managed to thrive on the small market of Wedza for almost a decade now, they however cited some current challenges which they said were retarding their market expansion and rate of production. Amongst the major challenges cited, the farmers stated that they had lost draught power due to rampant cattle deaths that occurred when a pandemic threatened livestock lives in the area. Some of the farmers even lost all of their beasts, a situation that exposed them to labour shortages, which dropped their production rate. One of the major challenges affecting the farmers was the issue of transporting their goods from the production place to the market place in Wedza town, some 20 to 30 kilometres away. They noted that, the major cause to these interrupted produce deliveries was the incessant fuel price hikes, which they also said were disturbing their irrigation systems which are mainly diesel or petrol powered.

The association is still struggling to make ends meet but is appealing to all donors and sponsors who promote agroecological interventions in rural farmer communities to help them solve the current transport and energy problems they are facing, so that, they continue identifying the objectives of their association.

 

Story by Samantha Jim (Programmes Intern)

 

       
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