Hwange farmers welcome EcoFarmer


By Bonani Muleya


HWANGE-RURAL farmers in Hwange district have welcomed the introduction of EcoFarmer facility in their area saying it will capacitate them to carry out their farming activities.


The farmers’ platform has been in use since 2013 when it was launched
as a weather indexed insurance business but has been less accessible
to rural farmers especially in Hwange due to a number of challenges
including poor road and mobile network.

With improvement to mobile penetration, Econet has expanded the
facility to Hwange’s rural areas.

To those areas where mobile network was available, farmers couldn’t
understand the promotional text messages sent to them because
EcoFarmer had not been introduced to them.

The platform has widened to include a variety of facilities all aimed
at teaching farmers and enhancing their farming skills and
opportunities.

Parts of Hwange rural are difficult to access due to poor road network
which over the years made it difficult even for Agritex officers to
visit farmers.

Mobile communication becomes the solution.

The introduction of EcoFarmer is a relief for farmers, mostly in
Matetsi, Chikandakubi, Jambezi and others where there is a thriving
agriculture in the predominantly wildlife dominated district.
Hwange is a drought prone region and through EcoFarmer farmers can
receive tips about which crops to grow and at what time of the year.
Speaking recently at the launch of Victoria Falls Economic Zone
Farmers Cooperative in Monde, members of the farmers group said they
felt capacitated to carry out their farming activities.

“This is a welcome development which we should all embrace. We have
been struggling to get information about weather and rainfall patterns
and with this we know we cannot go wrong,” said Aaron Ndlovu, the
cooperative chairperson.

EcoFarmer doesn’t need one to have a smartphone or expensive gadget to
use it. A simple handset is enough for one to receive text messages, a
platform on which EcoFarmer information is sent, as long as there is
network connectivity.

Chief Mvuthu said EcoFarmer will help farmers in his area network with
their counterparts countrywide as well as enhance their skills.

“This should be spread to all rural farmers so that we all benefit
from the education that EcoFarmer brings. It’s good because almost
everyone villager or homestead has a phone handset,” he said.

District Agritex officer Zimhlophe Ndlovu challenged farmers to
embrace EcoFarmer as it has capacity to improve yields.

Is one of the many Econet products including Buddie, Ecosure, Ecocash,
Ownai, Ruzivo, Ecoschool and Ecohealth.

It involves registration, subscription, tips, information services,
financial services, weather update and other value chain services.

The service is popular with small holder and large scale farmers as
well as other external strategic partners and is accessible by
registration using the same handset and one car receive tips and
information for a minimal charge.

An Econet agent who explained the facility to the farmers said
registration is free.

He said it is a smart farming method where farmers can join trading
and marketing platforms as well as engage specialists and get expert
advice over SMS for free.

“EcoFarmer’s vision is to transform the agricultural sector and the
livelihoods of the smallholder farmers,” said the agent.