Muchaneta Chimuka Features Writer
COVID-19 has brought some new challenges especially for rural women farmers.
The farmers interviewed by The Herald said it has become difficult to sell or buy farm essentials easily due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions as many do not have exemption letters. Moreover, those selling farm essentials locally are taking advantage of the lockdown and overcharging the women farmers.
Most of the women said they did not have the required documents such as offer letters for their land among others to prove that they are part of essential services.
President of the Zimbabwe Women Farmers Association Trust Ms Depinah Nkomo said: “We applaud the Government for prioritising agriculture as an essential service. However, due to gender inequalities, social and cultural beliefs and other barriers, many women do not have offer letters or even title deeds to prove that they own a certain piece of land. We are facing challenges of fall- army worms, but we cannot go to Harare and purchase chemicals due to travel restrictions,” she said.
She said, women play a significant role in ensuring food security hence they should be given access to resources in order to bridge the gaps of gender inequalities.
“We are expecting a bumper harvest this year due to the incessant rains experienced throughout the country and the majority of the farmers have embraced the Pfumvudza farming concept. However, the travel restrictions are a setback to some farmers who do not have exemption letters. They are buying their inputs and farm implements locally where they are expensive,” she said.
Mrs Olga Nhari the National Chairperson for the Women in Agriculture Union said:
“Covid -19 has directly and indirectly affected our women farmers. Some have lost track of their clients who had bought products on credit. Covid- 19 has increased the vulnerability of rural women farmers who reside in remote areas where access to information is limited,” she said.
She said those who are into poultry industry and fish farming are now selling less hence profits have been reduced
“Some customers who used to buy 100 chicks are now opting to purchase 20 due to uncertainties in business,” she said.
Arda chairman as well as AgriSeeds Sales and Marketing Director, Mr Ivan Craig, said farmers need strong support so they can excel.
“Farming is the backbone of our economy, but it has been drastically affected by the effects of Covid-19. So far we have lost three farmers in Mutare, Bindura and Chegutu due to Covid-19. We are now educating farmers on the prevention mechanisms such that we do not continue losing precious live,” he said.
He encouraged farmers to comply with the enforced Covid-19 regulations and avoid unnecessary travelling.
“We encourage farmers to form groups so they can send a few individuals to purchase products that they need. Moving in numbers fuels the spread of Covid-19. Our farmers let’s mask up, sanitise and practise social distancing,” he said.
He urged farmers to embrace new farming technologies such as virtual farm meetings, combine harvesting, pivot irrigation among others and do away with physical meetings which allow crowding.
Zimbabwe has so far lost 1217 lives due to Covid-19, 33388 confirmed cases and 26044 recoveries.