Land has always held a mystic value to the African. In Zimbabwe in particular, the land has always been the epitome of “nyika yedu”-our nation. But for some time after 1980, agriculture has been losing its lustre, to the extend that whole generations of “born-frees” sneered on the land as the plaything of losers. But, I seem to feel the winds of change blowing away that derison, replacing it with renewed reverence for the land, especially among the youths.
After my sojourn in the UK, I was eager to get back on the land, to travel the length and breadth of Zimbabwe to ask and get answers about what’s happening with the land. Well, I have been to different places, both physically and through digital forums, and I seem to observe a re-awakening in the passion for the land and the agricultural way of life.
I know diasporans eager to set up micro-projects in agriculture. I have worked with a few of these: people keen to establish beautiful, aesthetic herds of exotic breeds. I could feel the passion of one young man in Banket who is prepared to upgrade his herd to become all-Brahman in 10 years. I have spoken to one academic who marveled at the indifference and ignorance that she displayed 10 years ago when she was allocated a piece of land and let her soya bean harvest all rot away in blissful neglect…
The attitudes are surely changing. With attitude change comes motivation to learn, to explore, to immerse themselves in the practice. I have been a member of various farming oriented WhatsApp groups, and am observing that young people are taking up the mantle of developing agriculture, and through that, the nation.
Of course there are problems. Cattle diseases, particularly tick-borne diseases, continue to ravage the country. Some families’ herds have been wiped out. The cattle dipping infrastructure has been crumbling for years. The marketing system has still not recovered. Farmers still have knowledge gaps, particularly in areas of animal welfare, animal nutrition and breeding. The public extension system is trying, but a lot needs to be done for it to become a useful enabler in the regeneration of agriculture in Zimbabwe.
This being October, you hear the distant rumble of thunder and the ominous cumulous swirling in the skies and think: there’s still life in the universe yet, despite climate change, expensive inputs and everything else. The currency is stabilizing too. Maybe i’m seeing wrongly, but I feel that at long last, Zimbabwe is stirring from its decades-old slumber. When even the elements conspire to cooperate, even the skeptics should begin to believe!
Meet me in the next instalment!