VILLAGERS in drought-prone Beitbridge district have reportedly resorted to selling government-issued fertilisers and seed which they said were unsuitable for the region and ‘useless’ for the area.
By Rex Mphisa
Bags of fertilisers are seen on most Beitbridge bus stops along the Beitbridge-Harare Road where enterprising vendors buy the commodity for resale in Harare.
Communal farmers sell a 50kg bag of fertiliser for a giveaway price of between $15 and $20 to the vendors, who in turn resell it for $27.
“The villagers do not want the fertilisers so we buy it and transport it to Harare where the market is lucrative and quick,” a vendor who refused to be named, said.
“At times we barter, we bring certain goods or commodities they want and get the fertilisers we resell. It costs $1 to transport a bag to Harare, but relatively cheaper if you have more bags.”
She said at times they went into the communal areas collecting the product from villagers who were almost ready to give it away.
A teacher at Lutumba said fertiliser deliveries were done a week ago, but dealers were almost mopping it up.
“Dealers have combed the length and breadth of the district buying fertiliser. They don’t negotiate because sellers are willing to let go,” said the teacher.
Beitbridge, like most parts of the Matabeleland region, lies in natural agro-ecological region 5 which is characterised by poor rainfall and long dry spells and is suitable for livestock farming.
“People here need livestock vaccines, not fertilisers. It looks like people at the top will never understand this. If they insist they want to give us fertilisers, then they must put the entire district under irrigation,” the teacher said.
“We have been getting fertilisers since this input scheme was introduced long back, but hasn’t someone told the powers that be that we don’t harvest anything? What is their follow up system like?”
The government has launched command livestock, a programme where farmers are given cows they pass on after two offspring.
It is hoped the programme could assist building the country’s beef industry which at one time was the largest in Southern Africa.
Poor policies and ill-planned agrarian reforms by former President Robert Mugabe have been blamed for the country’s poor agricultural performance over the past two decades.
Government officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.