Gokwe Farmers Dump Cotton For Small Grains As Hunger Looms

By Mark Mhukayesango


GOKWE, December 8, 2015-Zacks Machaya a farmer in Gokwe sits at the door of his empty granary
pondering his next move on how he can save his four member family from
looming hunger that has struck his village.
Machaya is a cotton farmer who has been in the trade for 20 years when
growing cotton was the cash cow for most farmers in his area.
But now with tumbling cotton prices and looming hunger, Machaya has to
devise a plan to provide food for his family.
On one end government is owing him thousands in unpaid cotton supplies.
Growing cotton is no longer profitable and sustainable for farmers
here who have chosen to switch to cash crops like Tobbaco and small
grains in drought prone Gokwe South.
Farmers here have not received sufficient rains to begin growing maize,but have started planting small grains like millet, sorghum which are drought resistant.
Speaking to Radio VOP , Machaya said he chose to grow less cotton and
concentrate on grain to avert hunger.
“I used to earn a lot of money from selling cotton which means i could
afford to buy maize, but its no longer sustainable. My family risks
starving if i continue with my farming habits i started growing small
grains,” said Machaya.
Small grains are drought resistant and require less rain hence can
thrive in areas like Gokwe which are prone to hunger.
With reports saying that Takavata villagers in Chief Nemangwe area are
surviving on wild fruits, farmers here have become more conscious of
food security.
“We can no longer continue to grow cotton like we used to because
there are more pressing food issues,” said Machaya.
Hunger is preying on the poor villagers who have been shortchanged by
government which has not been paying them , owing money for an entire
Villagers in Takavata are surviving on baobab fruit (Mawuyu) as they
can only afford to cook sadza once a day.
Grain has become expensive , with villagers buying a bucket of maize for $15.
Maize traders here are preying on desperate villagers who exchange
bails of cotton for a 90 kg sack of maize.
“They are taking advantage of hunger here so they charge us more than
in other villages. Government has not been assisting us to avert
hunger in our area,” said Miriam Maseva Gokwe South ward 14
She said farmers are slowly abandoning cotton to maize and other crops
as they don’t make much profits.
“Through the Environmental Management Agency (EMA),we managed to
secure small grains which will go a long way in averting hunger.”
Provincial Agritex officer Peter Chamisa said “We are encouraging
farmers through our local representatives to diversify their cropping
so as to fight hunger.”
Chamisa said added that “We urge farmers to take issues of food
security seriously because they cannot continue to live on handouts.
Introducing various crops will also add the soil’s nutritional value
especially leguminous crops like ground nuts.”