One thing the farmers (and market sellers) haven’t seemed to learn is market diversification. From my first day I heard about cabbage, saw cabbage and ate cabbage. Cabbage is spoiling in the Manica and Chimoio markets yet these market sellers say they could sell more. I found it so depressing I didn’t even take a photo of it. Beautiful cabbage is sitting in some farmer’s fields yet no one buys it. Yet they say they want to buy more and grow more. How come?
The farmers say they are able to make a good profit growing cabbage. This was confirmed by Bella, a PhD student from Zimbabwe who has been working with the Belas Associations and conducting some case studies. But I’ve begun to wonder. What about cucumbers, onions peppers, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach or potatoes? These twenty-something potato sellers in the 25 Junho Market in Chimio told me most of the potatoes they bought and sold were from South Africa.
They were unable to find a reliable local source for good quality potatoes. When they say good quality they are primarily talking about size, but they also value red potatoes which often are not found on the South African market. These guys also said they wanted to sell more then potatoes (unlike the cabbage sellers) and could sell almost anything. I believe them.
All they need is a local source. At least this case the young are moving faster than the older generations.
I’ve seen few new agricultural products for sale. In Manica I saw ginger, although I’m told it as been available for several years, mustard greens and broccoli rab and a few sad looking eggplant in Chimoio. Otherwise little has changed in the markets. There are perhaps more sellers and non- agricultural related business in Mercado 38. Mercado 25 de Junho has built a line of permanent stalls and cleared out a pathway for customers.
The farmers in four of the six Belas Associations have just completed four days of intensive business plan training from GAPI, a local microfinance organization. This week I’m planning to follow up on some of the theoretical concepts they learned last week- especially on the concept of diversification- why it makes good business sense and why it is good for production. Their other favorite crop couve, or Portuguese kale, is the in the same vegetable family as cabbage. Their fields are full of cabbage worms. I’m a bit worried that the photos and video of the Madison farmers market
will overwhelm them, but I’m hoping they will learn to imagine what more is possible. Growing petite green beans for Vanduzi Company is just one small step.