It’s Sahara in Canaan
By Steve Ephraem
BIBLICAL Canaan’s description includes the portrait of a place with good climatic conditions that made the place flow with milk and honey. Sahara is a dessert in Africa with no good climatic conditions and is not suitable for human dwelling.
Rusitu Valley in Chipinge and Chimanimani is a reflection of Canaan. It is also a hub of fruit farming. As far as food security is concerned, most farmers in Rusitu have nothing to worry about.
They only become haunted when the issue of marketing their produce comes into consideration. The fruit and vegetable farmers in Chimanimani and Chipinge are forced to sell their produce at roadsides, something that has been caused by lack of market for their produce.
Most farmers descend onto the most popular roadside market at Jopa, about 12km from Chipinge town along the Chipinge-Birchenough Highway.
Jopa is where the highways from Chimanimani and Chipinge connect. That is where the Skyline-Jopa and the Kopa-Jopa highway intersect with the Chipinge-Birchenough Highway.
Farmers from places such as Mutsvangwa, Ndima, Kurwaisimba and Kopa which are part of the Rusitu Valley in Chimanimani flock the Jopa market all year round. Farmers from the Chipinge side of Rusitu Valley also compete with those from Chimanimani at the same place.
As a result, fruits and vegetables are sold at give-away prices. Rusitu Valley boasts of produce such as pine apples, yam, macadamia nuts, avocado pears, bananas, tea and coffee.
When Business Wave Africa.com visited Jopa market, farmers were enduring the hot-dry’s heat wave in direct sunlight.
“We are many here and we are exposed to bad weather. It might be rain or sun heat, we suffer because there is no sheltered market here,” said one lady who preferred to remain anonymous.
“We don’t like to stay for long here. That is why we end up selling our produce at give away prices. The other issue is that when exposed to bad weather for long, bananas end up rotting and bring huge losses to farmers,” said a man who identified himself as Benjamin.
Asked what might be the way forward, the farmers indicated that they wish if a fruit processing industry could be established in the region so that they could sell their produce easily.
“We want to do what cotton and macadamia nuts farmers are doing. They bring their produce to merchants who buy in bulk. This helps the farmers to return home on the same day than what we are doing here at Jopa to spend days trying to sell our fruits and vegetables on roadsides,” added the lady.
Contacted for a comment, the secretary general for Chipinge Chamber of SMES, Isee Zihwi indicated that a fruit processing company was being established courtesy of the chamber.