By Blessings Chidakwa
Government has implored farmers to use cement in the construction of tobacco barns and houses to avoid disasters due to strong winds and hailstorms.
This comes after 93 tobacco barns and 14 houses were recently destroyed by heavy rains that were accompanied by strong winds in Nyamakate, Hurungwe.
Speaking during a tour of the affected areas in Hurungwe’s Ward 32, Minister of State for Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Webster Shamu said tobacco farmers should strive to build standard structures.
“I am aware that rains destroyed most barns in this area, while we understand that your preoccupation is to produce the best grades of tobacco, we urge you to use the correct material when building your barns to safeguard your lives and produce.
“Looking at the barns that were not destroyed we can also see that they were death traps because no cement was used in their construction, which makes them insecure. It is just fortunate that there were no fatalities,” he said.
Minister Shamu appealed to farmers to avoid hiding in barns when it is raining as most of them posed a threat to their lives.
“My appeal to tobacco farmers is that they should not hide in barns while it is raining as they risk being trapped inside,” he said.
Minister Shamu also appealed to stakeholders that support farming of the golden leaf to offer maximum support that include upgrading of infrastructure.
“Most farmers are contracted and we would like to urge the companies that offer them support to also include teachings on how best to erect secure barns,” said Minister Shamu.
Hurungwe district administrator and Civil Protection Unit chairperson Ms Makepeace Muzenda, who accompanied the minister during his tour, said some families whose houses were destroyed were being accommodated by their neighbours.
“We are going to carry out massive awareness campaigns to encourage people to use cement in the construction of barns and houses.
“About 93 barns and 14 houses were destroyed in Nyamakate area alone so the impact is very serious and it needs urgent attention,” she said.
A local farmer Mr Thomas Mudzaki said they were being forced to erect substandard structures due to exorbitant prices of cement.
“What is forcing us to erect these structures without cement is that we cannot afford the prices. Of late, we have only been using pit sand to construct our barns and houses,” he said.
“The impact of this disaster will also be felt by some of us without barns because we were pinning our hopes on using those of our neighbours. The situation is tough for us as we might end up producing low grade tobacco,” he said.
Some farmers in the area were left counting their losses after some crops were also destroyed in the storm.