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Zimbabwean academics revive 'dead' farmland in South Africa

Zimbabwean academics revive 'dead' farmland in South Africa

South Africa

What started as a weekend trip to South Africa’s Western Cape province has today become a blossoming agriculture venture in the midst of a drought.

Zimbabwean academics Albert Zinhanga, Batsirai Magunje, Walter Khumalo, Masimba Paradza and Doctor Ignatious Matimati saw a parcel of land, inquired from its owners if they could till it and they got an opportunity to farm on it free of charge for a year.

They only had to pay for the electricity they used for their activities.

We added value to the land -- the nutrients by putting chicken manure, cow dung manure trying to improve the soil, but the land was not useless.

The five who were not new to farming, which they did on a subsistence basis back home, found new ways of making the land arable.

“The land was usable but it was not fertile” Albert Zinhaga, an African Languages lecturer said.

He explained that the land was “a bit of sand soil, which does not have much nutrients, so you need to add value to the land so that you could farm it. That’s what basically we did. We added value to the land — the nutrients by putting chicken manure, cow dung manure trying to improve the soil, but the land was not useless”.

The farm lies in a farming region some 60 kilometers outside of Cape Town, noted for its rich history of farming. But like most parts of Africa, including the south, the region has been experiencing drought spells over the past year.

But the ‘migrant farmers’ now known as the N7 Malmesbury Farmers are lucky to have underground water which has helped irrigate their crops which include maize, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables.

Batsirai Magunje, one of the farmers who is also a physicist and material science engineer says: “We have plans to bring on board South Africans who are really willing to learn from us, so every window is open and there are no boundaries when you look at the future, there’s no limit, we can refill the silos of South Africa.”

Following their success, the N7 Malmesbury farmers now pay $80 per hectare to the land owner – a guarantee for them to keep their farm going.

“If you are living in a certain city, you have to make use of what is there, so these guys made a unique success story whereby they actually approached the owner of the land and asked him ‘could we farm here’. They didn’t say let us go back to Zimbabwe and ask for land in Zimbabwe, they are working here, their families are here, they need to provide for their families,” said Julius Shamu, the Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Excellence Awards.

The N7 Malmesbury farmers were recently presented with the 2016 small business of the year award at the annual Zimbabwe Excellence Awards.

The farmers are not resting on their oars as they are working to expand their crop production from 3 to 15 hectares and grow more vegetables, which they supply to clients at the nearby Cape Town Epping Market.