BY AMOS BATISAYI
MORE than 6 000 small-holder farmers in Gokwe have been contracted by the Agriculture Business Centre (ABC) to produce sunflower, sorghum, pearl millet, cowpeas, Bambara nuts and chillies for the 2021/22 farming season.
ABC general manager Vernon Mushoriwa told Southern Eye that they were assisting farmers to grow drought-resistant crops, which are doing well in Gokwe South and are turning out to be cash crops in the district.
For sunflower, Mushoriwa said their target was to get 4 000 farmers on board.
“This is our third year in the production of sunflower and other small grain crops. The social enterprise has seen an increase in the demand for sunflower production by small-holder farmers in Gokwe. This has forced ABC to increase seed given to farmers from 5 000kg in 2020/21 to more than 22 000kg in the 2021/22 farming season.
“Sunflower farming has, over the years, been sidelined by small-holder farmers due to lack of reliable markets. Small-holder farmers have been producing the crop at a small scale. ABC is value adding by producing sunflower oil in thousands of litres. As ABC, we are aiming to commercialise the sunflower value chain in Gokwe,” Mushoriwa said.
He said sunflower farming could be used in tackling poverty, as its processed oil could be sold to the community at an affordable price.
ABC has also identified several value chains that have the potential of transforming livelihoods in the district.
It has also set up a plant to produce sunflower oil, which is sold to the communities at an affordable price.
Sunflower cake is used to produce stockfeed, which is sold to the community and outsiders.
A farmer, Clayton Muguti, from Mapu, ward 15 said: “Sunflower is widely adaptable and more drought tolerant than most crops. It can, in fact, tolerate high temperatures and drought conditions. During the 2020/21 season, I was contracted to produce sunflower by ABC and I sold the crop to the company. I used the money to buy two cows and an ox-drawn plough.”
Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development minister Anxious Masuka recently said the government had decided to include sunflower and cotton as primary oil seed crops alongside the conventional soyabeans.
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