For two days I’ve been outside of Chimoio visiting farming associations and interviewing farmers in rural Manica Province. On the second day I traveled close to the Zimbabwe boarder, which can be seen at the top of the mountains in the photo below.
On the first day I met Pai de Paulino, 78, who has farmed his land since at least 1975.
His association quarries rocks by hand as an alternative income generating enterprise. The work is hard and most of his children have left the land.
Probably the greatest challenge faced by this association is their isolation. The road is in extremely poor condition, thus traffic to and from the main road is nearly non-existent.
They would like to take produce out to the main road where it could be more easily purchased by wholesalers from Chimoio and Beira. Although they own a few oxen, they do not own a cart. Finally, their isolation also means they lack market price information, putting them at the mercy of the wholesalers who do manage to make it out to their farm. Pai de Paulino, however, is hopeful as he has already seen improvement in his production levels and quality after receiving technical assistance from UCAMA.
While in the field I’ve been hosted by farming associations who operate with technical assistance from UCAMA (Manica Farmers Union).
The associations are not cooperatives, but rather growers who often farm on adjoining parcels of land and work together to have their land legally certified with the government. Sometimes the associations function as loose cooperatives, but I’ve learned not to use that word as it for some nearly a dirty word due to Mozambique’s socialist past. Each association functions a bit differently and is in varies stages of development. At times members purchase inputs together, but rarely do they market their produce jointly. The associations could benefit greatly from forming a true cooperative structure and I find myself struggling not to bring up the topic directly.
The primary vegetable crops are tomatoes, lettuce, onions, carrots, cabbage, sweet peppers, cucumbers, okra, beans (both green and dry), greens, and garlic.
During my visits I was given tomatoes, greens, bananas, sugar cane, tangerines, and papaya.
According to growers, tomatoes are generally the most lucrative crop, despite the fact that the market often faces overproduction and large price fluctuations. I already witnessed many rotting tomatoes in the Beira market and my mind can barely stop spinning with endless possibilities for processed tomato products. A tomato canning factory existed in Chimoio prior to 1975, but just this morning I heard a rumor that it had recently been sold to someone who dismantled all the equipment and took it to Zambia. Home processing is also unknown, but from my own experience I know how easy it is to home dry Roma tomatoes (the most common variety grown here). The problem, of course is that both and if growers and consumers would need to be convinced that it is a good idea. Even Elizabeth, the CNFA Horticultural Value Chain project manager, is skeptical about the taste. I’m hoping one of these days to find an expensive imported package of sun-dried tomatoes from Italy in the local Shoprite from which I can offer some taste test samples.