KAROI — Hurungwe is among Zimbabwe’s farming districts with potential to reverse the country’s worsening food security situation.
The district, covering 19 678,34 square kilometres, is Zimbabwe’s second largest district surrounded by four of the country’s 63 districts namely Guruve, Makonde, Gokwe and Nyaminyami.
With eight traditional chiefs, namely Kazangarare, Chundu, Nematombo, Chanetsa, Nyamhunga, Mjinga, Dandawa and Dendera, the district has a population of 329 197 people, according to the 2012 census.At a projected three percent growth rate per year, the population is now estimated to be around 370 000.
Boasting of three Grain Marketing Board (GMB) silo depots in Karoi, Magunje, and Mkwichi as well as two GMB stack depots in Vuti and Mudzimu, Hurungwe is one of Zimbabwe’s key agro-zones that could easily reverse the country’s precarious food security situation.
The three silos and two stack depots are empty as output continues to dwindle due to several challenges, among them failure by the district to leverage on its immense potential.
Despite its immense potential that once helped Zimbabwe become the regional breadbasket before land reform in 2000, Hurungwe is stuck among some of the country’s least developed districts, agriculturally.
Critics now argue that its fortunes could have been much better if it had a tertiary agricultural college for its population to broaden their knowledge in farming.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s 2015 state of the world food security situation, Zimbabwe is among countries with a high food deficit of between 25 and 40 percent.
While climate change and perennial droughts are affecting countries like Zimbabwe, the country still has regions such as Hurungwe that continue to have favourable rainfall and hence should improve the country’s food security situation. But this is not happening.
Hurungwe residents believe that an agricultural college in the area would allow the district to realise its full potential as that would help transform local farmers from subsistence to commercial.
“I think government policy on tertiary college establishment has been compromised as we must have a college in Hurungwe. It is taking long to be established,” said Charles Matara, an agricultural graduate from Mupfure Agricultural College, some 250km away from Hurungwe.
Matara, now 38 years old, is farming a 25 hectare plot on Longhaul Farm, situated about 35km east of Karoi town, 200km north-west of Harare.
Hurungwe acting administrator, Friend Ngirazi, said they were making frantic efforts to ensure the establishment of an agricultural college.
They had also made appeals through the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development for government to allocate more resources to the GMB to help it boost food production in Hurungwe.
“Hurungwe is the second largest district in the country, but gets an almost equal share of resources with smaller but unproductive districts. We are appealing to the government to allocate more resources to GMB so that farmers are paid early to boost food security,” said Ngirazi.
He admitted that failure to establish a college was negatively impacting on production.
During the height of the land reform programme in early 2000, the area’s district lands committee had earmarked Nyamanda Farm, situated about eight kilometres east of Karoi, for the establishment of an agricultural college. The farm had all the facilities for both animal husbandry and other farming activities.
The farm was initially owned by Chris Sheppard and was, as part of the land reform programme, allocated to the brother of a former minister who is underutilising the property.
Ngirazi admitted that the issue of establishing a tertiary college in the district remains a challenge.
“The college issue is affecting every administrator who wants to see Hurungwe prosper and we have since asked Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Dr Godfrey Gandawa, to work on it as a matter of urgency. It is true that Nyamanda Farm was earmarked for an agricultural college but nothing has progressed,” said Ngirazi.
Gandawa could, however, not be reached for comment.
Hurungwe has five Members of Parliament, namely Godfrey Beremauro representing Hurungwe Central, Gandawa standing for Magunje, Sarah Mahoka for Hurungwe East, Keith Guzah for Hurungwe West and Reuben Marumahoko representing Hurungwe North, all from the ruling ZANU-PF party.
Critics argue that these Parliamentarians should work together to push for the establishment of the college. Beremauro said a council resolution to establish the college was rebuffed due to political divisions during his 17-year tenure as Hurungwe Rural District Council chairman.
“As Hurungwe Rural District Council, we recommended Nyamanda (Farm) as a farming college to the lands committee, but to our surprise a former Cabinet minister’s brother came with an offer letter against the wishes of local administrators who wanted to see development in Hurungwe,” said Beremauro.
He also had no kind words for his fellow politicians in the ruling party whom he accused of fuelling underdevelopment in the district.
“As politicians in Hurungwe, we are now our worst enemies because we are divided. We do not have the same voice on developmental issues as some use money to buy votes and favours, but are not concerned about development once they are in office. This is a major leadership crisis we are facing,” he said.
Trainos Mawanga, who has closely watched developments in Hurungwe, said both local policy makers and government are to blame for the half-hearted approach and should assist Hurungwe with a college.
“Farming in Hurungwe is done at subsistence level; why not give the farmers expertise in the form of a college? Hurungwe has been neglected for too long and we call upon our political leadership to stand up for this noble cause as a matter of urgency to boost agricultural production in the district. Our farmers need training, especially now as we face challenges of climate change,” said Mawanga.
A district agriculture extension officer indicated that several reports were written over the years lobbying for the establishment of an agricultural college to no avail.
“We have raised this issue on several occasions as it will make our work easier, but we have not seen urgency in it and it is affecting all extension officers one way or the other. Our reports are gathering dust in offices. We are prepared to give extensive farming training to equip our farmers, but our efforts are being frustrated,” said the officer, who declined to be named because he has no authority to speak to the press. –
Story by Nhau Mangirazi