Nelson Munyawiri (53), a former teacher, has defied the odds in remote Hurungwe North where he is now a successful fruit farmer.
A father of seven, Munyawiri always wanted to be different from fellow rural folk in Headman Musokeri’s village under Chief Kazangarare in the Kapiri area, 63km east of Karoi town.
When many were jostling to grow cash crops like tobacco and maize, he was busy preparing his land for something completely different.
Not deterred by the weather conditions in the area, Munyawiri was driven by the passion for agriculture and to have a source of income.
He started planting fruit trees amid resistance from many.
Munyawiri moved to his current rural home in 1983. Since then, agricultural patterns have evolved according to market value of any particular crop.
“When I moved here, many people used to farm only cotton and maize. Now tobacco has replaced cotton,” he says.
“It is evident from just looking at the surroundings and remoteness of this area that seeing such trees like oranges and apples is a shock to many. Most communal dwellers in the area are into tobacco and maize farming only for they bring money quickly.”
Oranges, guavas, lemons, peaches and apples are some of the fruits one can find in Munyawiri’s orchard.
The fruits are professionally spaced according to their type and variety. This gives the orchard a sense of beauty and breathtaking “coolness”.
Taking advantage of Miami River which meanders close to his orchard, he uses buckets to water the trees most of the times.
“It was tough at first when I planted them for I had to water them using buckets and only waiting for the rainy season,” Munyawiri explains.
Munyawiri says he started farming fruits in 1992. This was soon after his return from Nyanga where he saw how fruits like apples were being farmed after a visit to a relative in Manicaland.
He was then still a teacher at Chibara Primary School and decided to buy apples and oranges seedlings on a trial basis.
“I came back from Nyanga that same year with the idea and I remember I did not even tell my wife Mai Chiedza what I was thinking,” the former teacher explains.
Munyawiri says his inspiration to be different from others was motivated by Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, who once said: “My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.”
And surely, according to Gandhi’s words, Munyawiri’s work is now benefiting not only him, but many in the community.
He introduced the fruits to many teachers, villagers and school children in the area, mainly Kapiri primary and secondary schools, as well as Bakwa Primary School who now come and buy them giving him a source of income.
Munyawiri now boasts of having bought many cows and being able to send his children to school from the project.
His wife confessed that she was initially against the project.
“When baba started this project, I was against it because I did not know peaches and oranges for I only thought they could only be found from white farmers,” she said.
Lunch Katurura, the resident Agriculture and Rural Extension (Arex) officer, agreed that Munyawiri was a rare kind of farmer in his area.
“I became an Arex officer a few years back and Munyawiri had already grown these trees. Now I only assist him in buying correct chemicals for spraying them,” Katurura says.
According to Munyawiri, he planted the first crops on the August 21 1992, a date he still remembers with much freshness scribbled on his face.
His neighbour Admire Chikondo describes Munyawiri’s ideas as surprising.
“He was almost summoned to appear before a traditional chief accused of causing rain scarcity in the area. Most people are so traditional in this area that they accused him of farming crops which the spirits hated, causing rain scarcity and misfortunes in the area,” Chikondo reminisced.
He said people opposed to the project were largely driven by jealousy.
Chikondo said he was also now benefiting from his neighbours’ project.
In a jocular tone, Chikondo said even their diet has changed and most of his family members were now healthy from eating fruits.
Munyawiri is not only helping locals by providing tasteful fruits, but teaching the youths in the area how one can diversify their farming method.
Many youths in the area now regard Munyawiri as their role model.
“Being in a remote area cannot be a barrier for one not to excel in life,” Munyawiri says, encouraging youths to create their own employment by undertaking projects and not rush to look for employment in urban areas.
Munyawiri has vowed to put the area on the map and asked for well-wishers to assist in providing irrigation equipment for his dream is to expand the project.