Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief
Zimbabwe has the second-largest high-grade chromium deposits in the world behind South Africa, with reserves of around 10 billion tonnes and in recent years, many farmers in chrome-rich areas such as the Midlands Province have abandoned farming and converted their farms into mines.
But not all.
In a farming area about 70km from Kwekwe and 50km from Mvuma where many farms are now active mining areas, there is the 120-hectare Mahamara Farm run by Mr John Muchenje (34).
While his peers jumped ship, Mr Muchenje, a beneficiary of the land reform programme, decided to stick to farming and make the most of it.
He does not regret his decision as he is now the success story of the land reform programme.
He has recorded success in tobacco and maize production.
Last season he delivered 100 tonnes of maize to GMB and sold 140 tobacco bales.
He also had soya beans, and has already planted maize and cabbages. He has managed to employ 40 people and to build a decent home.
But why farming?
“A lot of youths around me are into mining, but I chose farming because I feel I have a part to play in ensuring food security in the country,” said Mr Muchenje.
“Our nation needs to be fed and I feel as a young person I have an obligation to ensure that I play my part to the best of my ability to provide food for the nation.
“Secondly, Zimbabwe is an agro-based economy, which means our economy relies on agriculture, hence I also need to play a role in the development of this country.
“Thirdly, I met His Excellency Cde ED Mnangagwa in 2016 after touring his farm in Sherwood, he challenged me to do commercial farming so that I contribute directly to the growth of the economy.
“I accepted the challenge so that I could show him that I am up to the challenge.”
Mr Muchenje said he also derives his passion for farming from his late father Francis, a war veteran who died in 2007 and his mother Sekai, a war collaborator and farmer who all wanted to see a free and socio-economically growing Zimbabwe.
“I was encouraged to take up farming by my parents who always urged me to make use of the land,” he said.
“My mother studied agriculture and has been very supportive of the Agrarian Reform and Command Agriculture.
“I have managed to create employment for 40 men and women. Farming has positively affected my area in that there is now employment creation for farm workers and surrounding villagers are now able to pay fees for their children. I also provide groceries at wholesale prices to the farm workers.
“There is also provision of affordable produce like sugar beans and cabbages at the producer price for the surrounding community. There is access to clean water for the neighbourhood.”
Cde Muchenje, who has since invested in a centre pivot and a tractor among other farming equipment, said he was facing challenges such as the need for state-of-the-art combine harvesters and more tractors.
“I don’t have a combine harvester, among other essential farming equipment needed,” he said.
“So, when it is harvesting time, I have to hire and at times I am told to wait. Hiring is expensive and it weighs me down.
“So, I am calling on the Government to avail cheap farming equipment to young farmers.”
Mr Muchenje paid tribute to Government for introducing Command Agriculture, which he said has been assisting a lot of farmers throughout the country.
“I would like to thank His Excellency for such an initiative in the country and his support to the youths in agriculture so that they take agriculture as a noble profession,” he said.
Mr Muchenje believes the country could increase agricultural production and regain its status as the breadbasket of the region if Western countries removed the sanctions that they have imposed on the country.
Cde Muchenje is a holder of a Bachelor of Accountancy Degree and is also studying towards ICSAZ and ICPAZ.