Promoting local producers
One of the tragedies of living under ZANU PF rule for so long is that it killed the ability to dream in some of us. It made some of us shy to dream. Ordinary things are now seen as outrageous dreams. We got so used to mediocrity that we can’t dream anymore.
Thus, when an aspiring leader suggests measures that would promote industry and development at very local levels beyond Harare and Bulawayo, it’s called madness. Ndege chaiyo ichiri kushamisira.
Murehwa is well known for tomato production. The men and mostly women there do a roaring trade in tomato growing among other horticultural products. But their market is far. Local producers have to travel to Harare, sometimes overnight on rickety, tent-covered trucks to sell their produce to vendors at Mbare Musika. Oft-times, the quality of their produce is affected and it ends up fetching low prices. Some high-end shops hoard them at low prices, wash and repackage them before selling the same produce at high prices to the unsuspecting high-end market. They benefit far more than the Murehwa producers. This system must change. It can be changed. But it needs progressive leadership.
It’s good economics to promote local producers so that they get more value for their produce than is currently the case. One solution is to add value at source; to package the tomatoes or to ensure that they are transported more efficiently to the market – local and better still regional and international markets. Why not? Why should Mbare be their only market? Why can’t they dream beyond Mbare? Why can’t the organic Murehwa tomato find its way to the shelves of Marks and Spencer in London?
Why not build a factory in Murehwa to process and package tomatoes and not only create jobs for locals but also add value to the produce? Why not build a transport facility that ensures quick and efficient transportation from source to market? Why is that ridiculous? It’s not going to happen overnight but what exactly is wrong with thinking more progressively with a view to capacitating local producers?
These things aren’t even new. How many aero-dromes were there in commercial farming areas before the land reforms post-2000? How many private aircraft were owned or leased by commercial farmers during that period? Commercial agriculture worked and was sometimes highly profitable partly because the farmers knew the importance of connecting source to market in a quick and efficient manner. For example, flowers needed to get to Harare quickly before being flown out to Holland. Anyone who works in the industry will tell you how important it is to have quick and efficient transport facilities.
But now Chamisa talks about factories and air transportation for local produce and grown men and women laugh at him as if he is discussing something new. No one even talks about the black granite rocks that are transported by road from Mtoko to Harare before being flown out to Italy and other countries where they are processed and sold at high prices. The road is damaged and the locals get very little, if any returns from that big trade. Why not build a black granite processing plant in Mtoko and ensure locals benefit?
But no, Chamisa is dreaming too much, they say. Instead, they are happy to defend, support and sanitise people who have destroyed this country for the past 38 years. They refuse to dream. They don’t want to imagine the possibilities. Why is it wrong to build local factories and better transport facilities to support local farmers and the local population?