Are we using the right methods to gather agricultural and rural development information?

Policy makers and development partners in Zimbabwe have become accustomed to making decisions on the basis of the annual Crop and Livestock Assessment report as well as the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report which also conducts a rural livelihood assessment every year. Other sources of information for policy makers include demographic and healthy Surveys, the national census, the poverty assessment surveys and the national economic performance reviews. To what extent are the methods used in gathering information in all these surveys reliable?


The annual Crop and Livestock Assessment methodology comprises a sample of 30 households per farming sector per ward. Information is gathered through household interviews, observations and Key Informant Interviews around the country within at least three months. On the other hand, the ZimVAC conducts a rural livelihood assessment almost every year using a structured household questionnaire and focus group discussions within a few weeks. In 2014 ZimVAC data collection occurred from 9 to 21 May 2014 covering a total of 10 782 household interviews and 879 focus group discussions throughout the country. The ZimVAC assessment is based on ZIMSTAT sampling frame comprising a minimum of 15 Enumerator Areas (EAs) in each district. In each EA, 12 households are randomly selected and interviewed. Is it enough to rely on information gathered from 30 households and 12 households by the respective initiatives? Building on methods used by the Crop & Livestock Assessment and ZimVAC, the table below show a sample minimum and maximum percentage of respondents for selected districts and wards. Populations in each ward were gleaned from ZIMSTAT 2012 data:

Sample Minimum and Maximum %age respondents for selected districts and wards


Working with percentages, both sampling methods by ZimVAC and Crop & Livestock Assessment are less than 7% of the total households in each ward. This percentage might not be significant in reflecting the true picture on the ground. For instance, Chipinge Rural District’s smallest ward has 707 households and the largest has 4494 households. In this case, the sample percentage for the smallest ward, using Crop & Livestock Assessment, is 1.7% and for the largest ward it comes to 0.27%. Using ZimVAC, the smallest ward percentage representative sample is 4.24% and the largest is 0.67%. Significant information should come from percentages in the range of 10 to 30% and, being proportionate to number of households in the ward. Since wards have different numbers of households, there is need to consider proportionate representation. Trying to interview 30 households in a ward with only 25 households, for example Matobo, is more than 100 sample size and highly misleading.

Alternatives ways of enriching annual Crop & Livestock Assessments and ZimVAC

The way data is collected and processed into recommendations has an enormous bearing on how government and development partners meet their goals. An inadequate methodology produces flawed evidence which may result in missed opportunities and targets. These national information gathering initiatives should not be events but processes that tap into ordinary people’s ways of managing and sharing personal knowledge. Zimbabwe has structures that can easily be used to speed up and validate crop & livestock and ZiMVAC rural livelihood assessments. The ministry of agriculture has a presence from every ward up to national level. Same with all other government departments like the Ministry of Youth and Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Also, each rural community has farmer group leaders. Another structure is the local government which comprises village heads who, most of the time have information about their villages regarding population by gender and age, number of livestock, schools, land holdings, dams, irrigations schemes, boreholes and natural features like forests and rivers. All this information can easily enrich the crop & livestock assessments and ZimVAC so that information is not based on small samples.

Each district has development partners and NGOs that can provide assistance in kick-starting this process of data gathering and analysis to a point of empowering community knowledge centres at ward level where information is kept alive and fluid, not compressed into a portable document formats (pdf) documents which are currently accessible to a few people mostly based in urban areas. Such a process will go a long way in saving resources that would otherwise go towards baselines by several NGOs and private companies. Working through government departments such as ministries of youth and gender means information is collected already disaggregated by gender and age. Interventions that want to target youth or women can use this data without need to conduct separate surveys.

There is need for a simplified tool that can capture information from the farmer, rural entrepreneur and any actor. This information can be fluidly fed into a national database that speaks to the crop and livestock assessment.

Random sampling is rather inadequate in the modern digital age where information literacy is increasing. Random sampling can misrepresent what is on the ground. An alternative would be identifying and gathering information from categories of farmers in each ward. For instance, out of 100 master farmers, a sample of 10 is engaged. The same number can be sampled for medium farmers as well as for low producers. The total can then be expressed as a percentage of each category in the ward. It is very possible to have a total of master farmers; medium farmers and low producers in each ward rather than assuming farmers are the same. Such an approach can reveal the extent of required interventions in terms of food security and other support services. A community with 70% of master farmers able to produce enough for the ward requires a different intervention from the one where only 30% of the master farmers can meet local requirements.

Crop and livestock assessment should be a process from planting to harvesting so that we are able to analyse at what level the crops have been affected and why. Communities can tell whether crops have been affected at germination stage, tasseling stage or by too much rainfall at harvesting. Analysis has to come from communities. We can’t just generalize at national level because climate change is more of a local issue. That is why some wards receive rainfall while adjacent wards do not receive as much rainfall in a particular season. Such fine-grained information is critical for climate change interventions. If crops are affected at germination stage in three consecutive seasons, seed companies, hydrologists and farmers have to connect at that local level to address that particular challenge. It can’t be generalized. Climate change comes in cycles of less rain, interspersed with many good years in between. It has to be understood as more of a local problem than a national issue. Stepping up horticulture production to complement field crops has to be done based on accurate information. Besides being produced all year round, most horticulture commodities go together with main staples such as maize, sorghum and millet, leading to a holistic food basket.

Another option is getting local statistics through schools. School children or students can be requested to bring information from their parents regarding number and types of livestock, crops planted by area and amount of harvested commodities. Such information can be collected within a week and consolidated. The information can later be continuously updated. This way, crop & livestock assessments can become processes embedded in communities unlike the current situation where they are more like events happening over a few months conducted by experts from Harare.

At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be clear mechanisms for validating information gathered through ZimVAC and crop & livestock assessments at community level through feedback meetings. Having used random sampling, it would make sense for those responsible for ZiMVAC or crop & livestock assessments to go back to wards where information was collected and engage communities as a way of validating findings. During these events, communities can even provide additional information on their coping mechanisms before decisions are taken in the direction of food aid or importing maize.

What is also missing in most conventional reports is accurately information on the role of markets versus subsistence use of agricultural commodities. The role of remittances in wards and districts is also not captured yet most communities are now relying on remittances from South Africa, UK and other countries. Some households may reduce household consumption of a particular commodity like maize due to a new reliance on rice purchases. Reduction in area planted to maize can be by choice, for example, coping through remittances when a family member suddenly goes to work in South Africa.

If this process is enriched with updated analysis, droughts or floods will not come as a crisis or a surprise because regular data collection and feedback will provide signals before things go out of hand. We don’t have to wait until the ZimVAC report is published in order to take action or declare a drought. By that time, one community will have suffered beyond repair. Providing information ahead of time results in pro-active action. As information comes through, it should be possible to see types of commodities and volumes that are going to markets (local or urban). Some data can point to the role of local business people in supporting agriculture by either providing a market for local produce or supplying extending inputs on credit. The capacity of SMEs to organise and absorb local agriculture produce can also be revealed through elaborate ways of capturing data.

Riding on ICTs

Since random sampling tends to exclude some farmers, ICTs is now making it possible for local people to collect data. In this case they don’t just remain informants but co-creators of knowledge and shapers of their own destiny using data. A lot of information can be gathered and processed at growth points and rural business centres. Given the proliferation of ICTs each village or ward can gather, digitize and store its own data. Development partners can support building of local people’s capacity to gather their own data and conduct longitudinal studies while gathering and monitoring changes as they happen. With ICTs increasingly rendering information fluid, communities should be engaged so that they contribute to information as a flow not as a stock that can be condensed into a pdf accessible to a few technocrats. Engaging communities using their mobile technology enhances co-creation of real-time knowledge and information. Community dialogues can be used to consolidate and exchange information from various wards. Village development committees should be empowered to gather and semi-process valuable agricultural and rural development information using mobile technology. Such information can be consolidated once a fortnight at ward level.


The ministry of agriculture should be capacitated to embed a ICTs system through all these data gathering processes. Such an effort can be harnessed with the ministry of ICTs’ information centres programme. Agritex supervisors at ward level can be responsible for capturing and consolidating data at community information centres or in computers that are now available in most rural schools. Such content becomes very relevant for school children interested in agriculture and rural development instead of using text books with foreign content. A holistic data gathering and processing tool or framework can be designed by ICTs experts, local farmers as users, subject matter specialists (livestock scientists, agronomists, etc.), economists, entrepreneurs and policy makers. The tool can also be available in local languages.

Access to knowledge as power

Aggressive data collection and processing at local level will show viability points rather continue talking in terms of vulnerability. If we want to create wealth and not continue managing poverty we have to embrace a positive narrative. Evidence gathered throughout the year can show where support is required and when. For instance, areas with more grazing in much of the year may require more support to keep on supporting livestock before they become like the rest of the country. Data and evidence will also show at what point supplementary feeding is required. Making data fluid will avoid a situation where by the time the ZimVAC report is published 90% of the content is irrelevant.

Although farmers and agriculture markets are becoming hyper-linked – thanks to mobile phones,  ICTs are yet to fully transform the way African countries like Zimbabwe gather agriculture and rural development information.  Crop and Livestock assessments as well as the ZimVAC should tap into the way the agriculture sector now operates as networks where everyone can be a contributor within a transparent environment. A major source of knowledge is now diversity of ideas, and openness as well as an ability to make sense of what is going on.  Farmers and traders are now able to set the context around them and build consensus around emergent practices. Policy makers and development partners can make better decisions by actively listening to farmers and traders as networked contributors who are closely in touch with their environment. With an informed perspective, they can propose changes and build consensus around suggested responses.

Farmers, traders and rural communities can learn more from the process of creating a report than from implementing recommendations from a report in whose codification they didn’t participate. They can remember how the process of codifying their experiences felt than reading someone’s explanation of their circumstances. Involving communities in crop & livestock and ZimVAC assessments will give communities the confidence of taking development matters into their own hands.


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Can groups really deliver more than individuals?

In many African countries, farmers, traders and ordinary people are often encouraged to form groups as a way of pooling their resources towards achieving their individual goals. Group formation is sometimes introduced as a condition for receiving support from financial institutions and development partners. The underlying assumption is that groups can solve what people can’t solve at individual levels. From an economic and theoretical point of view, creating farmer groups and group lending schemes makes a lot of sense.

However, the promotion of groups as a way of achieving socioeconomic development doesn’t seem to be based on empirical evidence comparing outcomes from groups with outcomes from individual efforts over a long period of time. Most efforts in this direction are based on anecdotes indicating how particular groups are producing crops, chickens, dairy milk and processing some agricultural commodities collectively. On the other hand, there is also information on how individual farmers are doing well to a point of hosting field days where most people come to learn from one person.

eMkamboBalancing individual and group efforts is an area crying out for research


eMKambo recently conducted a survey among smallholder farmers and traders to try and get answers to the above question. Below are some of the findings:

Most organisations promoting groups in rural areas do not ask deep socio-economic-political questions around group formation. While it makes sense to form a women’s group, men and relatives who are not part of the group often have more influence in decisions that are made in the women’s group. For instance, decisions by a woman to acquire or sell agricultural commodities have to be filtered through the husband who probably knows nothing about governance issues that bind a group to which his wife belongs. In this case, training the women’s group alone will not bear expected fruits without taking into account the social context. Rather than focusing on group members, it is important to find out who else makes decisions that affect groups.

A group that comprises people with different economic resources and capacities will not function as a group but a collection of individuals with different ways of attacking same issues. They can only pretend to be a group based on convenience, for instance, if promoters like NGOs are visiting a project where the notion of group work has been introduced as a critical part of the project.

There is a point beyond which groups cease to be groups. A number of agriculture traders in the people’s market can briefly come together to buy commodities in bulk and when it comes to selling, its each man for himself. In the case of traders, different performance levels and different commodity lines present challenges to initiatives like group lending. Group collateral and repayments tend to constrain one business that wants to run with the stick. Another dimension is reluctance among some group members to assume group burdens. A group can provide comfort to some laggards who may decide to be uncooperative knowing that the group has champions who may cover up for the sake of maintaining the image of the group.

Some groups are inflexible to emergencies which often crop up in many households. As a result, a group member cannot wait for two weeks to fulfil an order when s/he has a pressing issue that can be solved through selling agricultural commodities quickly.

Just as farmers in the same context produce different results, in most irrigation schemes you find that farmers who planted maize the same day using the same inputs can produce different volumes and quality. This is due to individual creativity which is sometimes very difficult to express in a group. Development partners have to identify these differences which make others stand out even in the face of challenges. Leadership training on governance and other issues may not solve some of these issues because they are an intrinsic part of being human. In most cases, such hidden issues create disharmony in families and communities to a point where a project ends up creating more problems than it is trying to solve.

A number of groups in rural areas are tied to projects with a three year or five year lifespan such that when the project comes to an end, the group also packs its bags. New development partners coming into the same community form new groups. A private company that brings contract farming into the same community forms yet another group.

In a number of rural areas, group formation is not demand-driven but a vision of whoever is forming those groups. Group marketing of commodities is often not demand-driven either and this is revealed at the market. Development partners would rather understand how people are selling commodities first before encouraging group marketing. Often the role of individuals like agro-dealers who bulk up commodities is not considered with so much energy devoted to coercing farmers to focus on niche markets in urban areas. Unfortunately, these niche markets are choosy and don’t take the bulk of commodities.

The natural inclination for farmers is selling their own commodities at individual level. They can come together to buy inputs as a group but production and marketing can then proceed at individual level.   A rural market where individual farmers can bring their own commodities for sale to buyers who come to that market seems a more realistic option than getting farmers to pool their commodities together, fetch transport and get their commodities to an urban market 300 kilometres away. The concept of Nhimbe (Shona) and Amalima (isiNdebele) was based on individual creativity where people helped each other to weed or harvest but the owner would decide what to do with the commodities at individual household level.

Some of the questions surfaced by eMKambo include:

  1. When we form groups, how do one’s personal networks come into the group? There is a danger of a farmer or trader losing his/her own personal networks built over years.
  2. What should come first a farmer group or the market? The market should inform the formation of farmer groups in terms of volume of commodities in demand, timing, capacity, seasonality (calendar, etc.) It is not a contract but a market that informs farmers what to bring to the market. Most commodities from farmer groups do not meet market standards and expectations. Either the group produces commodities of poor quality, wrong varieties or they produce more than what the market requires at a given time. Group consignments tend to carry diverse expectations which the market cannot level at group but individual level. According to most of the farmers who spoke to eMKambo, it is difficult to represent another person’s commodity because some individuals think they can creatively articulate the value of their commodity better because they know it intimately. Group mistrust and the need for one to negotiate for his/her own commodity causes each individual farmer to want to come to the market rather than sending a few representatives.

The market creates more personal relationships than group relationships. Individual farmers create strong personal relationships through face to face interactions. People bond more at individual/personal level than groups do. They also want to represent themselves and cultivate future relationships and this can’t happen when somebody represents you.

Tying the loose ends

Groups should focus on production for consistent supply. At the moment it is common to find a whole group producing beans at once and selling the produce at once. A balanced market-driven approach to production should encourage farmers to produce in a staggered manner as individuals such that the same commodity gets into the market sequentially over an extended period. In this case, it is not a group but a supply chain. The market has a way of shifting the focus from people to commodities. The question should be how many commodities and in what volumes are agricultural commodities coming from a community not how many farmers. Agricultural markets are full of fast moving dynamics which most groups can’t cope with such that it ultimately becomes a domain for individual creativity and flexibility. Although the market may seem disorganized, farmers, traders, consumers and other actors are connected in ways that allow them to leverage opportunities as they emerge.

Farmers and traders are always struggling with their contexts at individual levels. Promoting groups, no matter how well intentioned, may actually hold back progress and natural ways of learning and adapting if we don’t pay attention to individual talents and aspirations. The quality of a group depends on the quality of individuals in the group. By empowering individuals to make sense of their context, we are enriching groups into which these individuals may find themselves. Individual learning is more powerful because it is demand-driven as opposed to group training which is often supply-driven and may not motivate individuals to learn for themselves.

This question regarding individual versus group efforts can be extended to corporate levels where mergers make a lot of business sense theoretically and analytically but practice can be a nightmare. Otherwise, Zimbabwe’s 21 banks could have easily merged into six or seven banks to maximize resources and efficiencies.  As soccer lovers know, it is not just about Barcelona as a group of players but also about Messi as an individual talisman. While promoting groups at whatever level, let’s not under-rate individual effort and passion which, in most cases, gets things done. While the Shona have a proverb which says: Chara chimwe hachitsvanyi inda (one finger cannot kill lice), they also have a reverse proverb which says: Mbeva zhinji hadzina marise (Too many rats don’t produce anything). There are many such proverbs in various African languages. Real success will probably come from balancing different worldviews and proverbs.


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Why many Zimbabweans no longer care what happens to wheat!

Every food has a curious history. Wheat production was introduced into Zimbabwe as part of industrial agriculture in 1961. It was intensified from 1965 when the then Rhodesian government was placed under economic sanctions by Britain, the Commonwealth and the United Nations after a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. The then government had to device ways of producing its own food since it couldn’t import due to sanctions. Following independence in 1980, wheat became a major crop alongside maize, tobacco and cotton. However, over the past few decades, Zimbabwe’s wheat production levels went down from 340 000 metric tons in 2000 to about 40 000 metric tons in 2011. The decline has been attributed to many factors including lack of funding and inconsistent electricity power supply. Major wheat products are flour and bran. Flour is the main ingredient for making bread and other confectioneries while bran is mainly used in the stock-feed industry.

While policy makers, bakeries and the mainstream media have for many years been lamenting the decline in wheat production around Zimbabwe, evidence shows that wheat products like bread now have numerous substitutes. Ordinary people have adjusted their eating habits. Diets are rapidly changing so much that claims to the effect that Zimbabwe requires 400 000 metric tons of wheat per year have to be backed with sound facts and figures.

From a recent eMKambo survey, bread is losing its footing to substitutes like sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternuts, pumpkins, rice & tomato stew as well as boiled sugar beans, cow peas and roundnuts all mixed with maize to produce mutakura in Shona or Inkobe in Isindebele. In urban areas where urban farming has spread like wildfire, consumers are now producing their own bread substitutes mainly sweet potatoes. This development, together with increasing health consciousness among consumers, has certainly slashed the demand for bread. Economic hardships are also prompting many households to think creatively about how to save the elusive US$.

Every household tries to be conscious of the cost of a US$. Some of the key questions on consumers’ minds include: How much of a household’s US$ can buy a five litre bucket of sweet potatoes which can feed a family of six for the greater part of the day? Three cups of rice for a US$ can also feed a family of six for half a day. For many households, a dollar should take a family of six from breakfast to lunch whereas a loaf of bread that costs $1 cannot take a family of six for half a day. Resorting to bread also attracts other additives like margarine and jam costing at least $2 over and above the $1 for a loaf. In most households, a loaf of bread is now for children going to school with other members of the household depending on various substitutes for breakfast.

eMkamboThe above commodities have become substitutes for bread in many households across Zimbabwe

Given that wheat or bread has never been a mainstream commodity for the majority of Zimbabweans, questions on many people’s lips include: Why does winter wheat receive much more attention than other commodities that can do well in winter and are an integral part of ordinary people’s food basket? How does diverting electricity power to winter wheat production impact other commodities and industries whose performance also depend on electricity? For instance, horticulture commodities requiring cold chain and chicken production all need reliable refrigeration. To what extent are bread value chain actors like bakeries financing wheat production? Why should sugar bean growers and processors be affected when power is diverted to wheat merely because these other commodities do not have a loud policy voice? Don’t we have other options for winter production other than wheat?

Food diversity approach versus single commodities approach
In the current economic hardships, our decision making and resource allocation should be driven by strong situational awareness and evidence. Government, fananciers and development partners should support commodities that make up a bigger part of ordinary people’s food basket. These commodities include: vegetables, legumes and tubers as well as small grains like indigenous rice which people can process at home. Wheat has to go through many hidden processes before it shows up as bread in the shop. Wheat marketing is also very complicated even for the sophisticated farmers who have no idea what falling numbers (a grading quality parameter for wheat) mean.

If policy makers insist on wheat production, an innovative strategy should ensure wheat production happens alongside the development of small-scale flour processing unlike the current scenario where it is dominated by a few players. Small-scale processors should be empowered to show their craftiness and ingenuity around blending wheat flour with sweet potatoes, pumpkins and many other commodities – producing food artistically. Innovation around small-scale flour processing and other value addition efforts should see more employment creation triggered by wheat production as well as more disposable income and more blends between wheat flour and other commodities.

As much as we want to promote wheat production at national level, it differs from farmer to farmer depending on distance to market, access to electricity, availability of irrigation infrastructure, labour cost, etc. In addition, at the market every producer gets the same price irrespective of different contexts. Having remained at US$1 per loaf since dollarization in 2009, the price of a loaf of bread doesn’t seem to reflect the competitive environment in the flour and bread industry. In a purely competitive environment, compounded by other factors like the cash crisis, the price of bread should have been seen going down at some points. Since this has not happened, there appears to be collusion in the flour and bread-baking industry given that there are very few players who can rig the game in their favour. These players are probably benefitting at the expense of consumers, government and other actors like the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), among others.

The mainstream media has not helped the situation by providing acres of space to three main commodities (Wheat, Maize and Tobacco) while saying nothing about more than 40 different commodities that are fundamental to the country’s food system. Adaptive solutions will result from looking at our food system holistically not as isolated commodities. By saturating newspapers and airwaves with wheat, maize and tobacco, the mainstream media is relegating other commodities to the margins. Farmers from Honde Valley who depend on fruits feel excluded from the agriculture discourse when their commodity is not mentioned at national level. Those in dry areas where sorghum and millet are the only gold also feel left out. Not to mention those in the southern part of Zimbabwe where livestock is the real McCoy.

The prevailing economic squeeze in Zimbabwe compels policymakers and development partners to base their investment decisions on empirical evidence. From food sovereignty and resource-allocation perspectives, it is no longer viable to support single commodities like winter wheat at the expense of an integrated food diversity system. Going forward, we have to carefully frame our messages and discourse around food. The same level of energy devoted to winter wheat should be seen extended to other commodities that do well in winter as well as rain-fed production of other crops by smallholder farmers. Focusing on single commodities impedes farmers from diversifying profit streams. An integrated food diversity strategy will enable farmers and other agriculture value chain actors to address the emerging needs of both urban and rural consumers at both national and international levels.

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Span of seven horticultural crops farmers can juggle in a changing climate

In a rapidly changing climate, smallholder farmers should not stand on one leg but can dance with a span of seven horticultural commodities. If a farmer decides to produce two of the seven crops explained below, s/he has to choose the right combinations in line with market intelligence.

Broccoli & Cauliflower – These vegetables always move as a pair in the market therefore it may not be helpful to produce one of them. However, the mass market can buy as singles with cauliflower more preferred than broccoli. Cauliflower tends to have higher returns and can also be exported to South Africa through wholesale companies. They are entirely winter crops although varieties for the dry season are now available. Producing in Sept, Oct, Nov & Dec is highly profitable. Regular irrigation is critical. You can produce a minimum of 1000 heads for broccoli and 2000 for cauliflower. If you get the right quality, the mass market can buy at 50c per headalf to three months. They sell quickly in the mass market and you can earn $90 in one hour.

Lettuce – This vegetable is preferred by the hospitality industry (hotels), supermarkets and restaurants mainly for events like weddings. Producing at least 500 heads per week in winter will ensure regular income for a farmer. It does very well from September to April and you can increase your production to 1000 every week. The mass market tends to take more. Mbare agricultural market has more than 15 traders specializing on lettuce only. The popular market price is 40c/head which is a good price given 10c/head cost of production. It is also exportable and you can keep it for one week in the field without irrigation. In winter you can earn 25c – 30c /head while in summer you can get 50c – 80c /head.

Peppers (Green, Yellow & red) – Peppers are highly demanded by wholesalers, supermarkets and the mass market. The crop generally does well all year round and the average price is 45c – 80c/kg during the course of the year. It grows very well in August, Sept, December and May. In December peppers pay well due to the festive season. Red and yellow peppers – are special and expensive – sold by weight in kilogrammes. A farmer can earn $2/kg from 3 – 4 peppers (producer price). They are said to have higher nutritional content. A farmer can do 1000 – 2000 plants and survive economic setbacks.

Butternuts – Pay well in winter. You can grow in Jan/February although it is affected by cold and thus require careful management. Butternut can be grown in all areas around Zimbabwe. In warmer areas, the ideal growing period is August. All soils and areas like Mudzi are ideal. NGOs operating in marginal areas should help farmers in Mudzi, Buhera and Gokwe to grow this crop which is even exportable. It can stay for six months in the warehouse and also matures in storage. About 2000 plants are idea for a smallholder farmer. Generally they are put at 10 000 plants per hectare, giving you five fruits per plant. It does well in the mass market where it complements breakfast foods like bread or sweet potatoes. If you do it properly, 50 000 fruits @ 70 fruits per sasseka gives you 714 sassekas. The average price for a sasseka is $18 which can go to $40-50/sasseka in July, August, and September. At $18/bag you get $14 000. On the other hand, it does not cost more than $1 200 to grow one hectare. Each plant costs 25c to produce but gives you a $1.


Potato – If you get superior seed like Mondial, BP1and Vala, each plant will give you 2kg plus. You can sell at $8/pocket having graded 50% medium, 30% small and 20% large. At $8 you get 53c / kg = $1.06/plant. The cost of producing each plant is 25c including inputs and if you factor in marketing costs (5c), you remain with 70c/plant = $1 400 from 2000 plants occupying 550 square metres. It can be grown anywhere throughout the year. Every week you need 15 to 20 drums of water = 3000 to 4000 litres. The mass market is more ideal as well as restaurants and food outlets.


Onion – It’s an all year rounder and a perfect cash cow for farmers. Allow onions to mature on the land and then turn them upside down to ensure roots dry completely. You can hang the onions in your house and only take to market as demand rises. The biggest volume in Mbare agricultural market comes from Nyanga. The cost of production can be as low as 1c/plant. You can also sell dry or green although the crop sometimes pays more when green. You can do a seedbed in November, transplant in January and starting selling in May at $1.50 for 18 fruits. A smallholder farmer can do 15 – 30 000 plants on 200 – 300 square metres depending on spacing. Onions grow best in winter. Some farmers only do in summer to capitalize on the market. In January to May you produce small fruit because they are affected by rains and diseases. The mass market is usually the best.

Cabbage – Good for farmers close to the market because it is too bulky. It is easy to grow in all areas including Hwange and Victoria Falls. Producing 1000 – 2000 plants can give you 25 – 40c/head at farm gate. Most farmers now want traders to come to farms. This means transferring all risks such as transportation and accommodation to traders. However, you can’t market everything from the farm because traders don’t take poor or average quality which you will have to bring to the market on your own. It costs 6 -10c to produce a single head as well as 6c to transport and market from a distance of 40km to the market.




A total of 5732 farmers supplied 42 different commodities into Mbare Agriculture market during the month of March 2015 generating a collective Expected Revenue (ER) of $ 1,576,844.15 an increase from February’s figure by 16%.

Table 1: produce supplied to Mbare in March 2015


Table 2: Produce Classes supplied to the market


The above table shows all the produce supplied to the market, quantity (in respective units of measurement and tonnage) and the ER for each product type.

Table 3: Expected Revenue (E R) by produce class


Chart 1: E R Share per produce class


Table 4: E R by Province


Chart 2: E R per province


Chart 3: E R per District


Chart 4: ER share per District


Table 5: Top ten E R earning Districts


Table 6: Top Ten E R earning produce


Table 7: Gender disparities


Chart 5: Gender disparities


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