Friday, July 16, 2010

(HERALD) Farmers urged to venture into agro-processing

Farmers urged to venture into agro-processing
Agriculture Reporter

FARMERS have been urged to venture into agro-processing to complement proceeds from the agricultural activities.

In an interview during the first-ever Zimbabwe Adding Value to Produce and Sustainable Agriculture Produce Fair at the Exhibition Park this week, FAO assistant director in Zimbabwe Mr David Mfote said while farming provided part of the family’s needs for food, there was need for cash to cover other expenses like school fees and medical costs.

"Additional income generating opportunities are therefore needed to support thousands of families who can not support their livelihoods from the land alone.

"The problem they all face is that opportunities for off farm employment in rural areas are limited," Mr Mfote said.

A total of 90 smallholder farmers from UMP, Mutoko, Mudzi, Muzarabani, Chiweshe, Mbire, Goromonzi, Chinamhora and many other places in the Mashonaland East, Central and West Provinces showcased their agricultural processed products.

These included dried fruits, vegetables, herbs, peanut butter, cooking oil and honey, sweet potato juice and jam, cowpea meatballs, sorghum bread, vegetable and fruit chutneys, among many others.

Mr Mfote said agro-processing to primary agricultural produce and selling processed products offered many opportunities.

"These include an increase in productivity and crop diversification, increase in the nutritional value of the diets of farming families; generation of extra income and the stimulation of the local economy.

"Agro processing can reduce wastage, enhance food security, improve livelihoods for low-income groups and empower women," he said.

Mr Mfote, however, said local farmers involved in processing were facing challenges in meeting the required quality and quantity at the market and were also facing stiff competition from imports. One of the organisers, Volens Africa communications facilitator, Mr Thomas Pouppez was satisfied with the turn out.

"We were expecting about 200 visitors to the fair and mostly from Harare but we have had people who have travelled from out of Harare to attend the event," he said.

"By 2 pm more than 500 people had visited our stands and we expect more by the close of the day (Wednesday)," Mr Pouppez said.

He added that there were plans to make the fair an annual event so that small holder farmers will have the opportunity to show case their produce, market and learn from their fellows from different part of the country.

Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe farmer, Mrs Cecilia Rabu trained under the Cluster Agricultural Development Services said training had enabled her to earn a living apart from preparing different nutritious dishes.

It was noted that these farmers required equipment to improve production.

ZAVSAP promotes growing of traditional and better-suited crops in the Mashonaland Provinces focussing on crops such as small grains, sweet potato, cassava and legumes.



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