By Sara Davies
Fourteen farmers from Bikita, Zimbabwe, took part in the Good Food Festival, a 3-day celebration of organic and traditional food and seed in the capital city of Harare.
The farmers, all women, were accompanied by EarthLore to attend the event, from the first day of Farmer Dialogues, to the National Seed Fair that took place on the second day, and finally the third day which was open to the public, at which they could sell their produce and speak to the consumers.
“This is something very special for the farmers,” explains Method Gundidza, Programme Manager at EarthLore, who was able to accompany the farmers on their trip to Harare. “Farmers are seeing other displays similar to theirs. And see that these seeds are valued as we value them. It is very encouraging.”
One farmer, Mrs Jange, was able to sell a bucket of svoboda for US$30, a setaria grass variety that has been recently resuscitated in Bikita. She asked if this is really true, not believing that she could get such a price for 20kg of the seed.
“As a seed in Bikita, this is regarded as something without value,” says Method. “Selling it for this price gives the farmers a sense of the value of what they are doing on the ground. They can see what their work feeds into, the value of what they produce. They can really see how this can be part of a much bigger picture.”
Another farmer from Mamutse, Mrs Mugano, got seed of Tsenza. Tsenza was identified at the beginning of the work in Bikita in 2015 as one of the lost seeds and this was a wonderful opportunity for her to bring it back to the community once more. She plans to multiply and share with the rest of the community in the future. Mrs Mufunda, from the same Mamutse community got seed of the white groundnut. She had gotten the same seed at last year’s festival but unfortunately lost it to the drought situation. She welcomed this chance to restock the seed. Mrs Gaiko of Chiroorwe got seed of the Mhunga inobaya, the hairy pearl millet variety. Mrs Mangoyi of the same community also got Misodzi mitsvuku, the brown/white tear variety of jugo beans. Mrs Mangoyi also learnt about mango fruit drying and promised to attempt it since she has a lot of mango fruit trees and often just watches the fruits rot.
Farmers interacted with potential buyers for their produce and got contacts for when they have sufficient quantities of items to sell.
Now in its seventh year, the Good Food Festival has given farmers from across the ten provinces of Zimbabwe the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and knowledge. With over 100 farmers representing, this really is the event of the year for small scale farmers. The final day also included stands displaying appropriate technology for this sector, including solar dryers and grinding mills, giving farmers the chance to explore new ways of adding value to their produce.
Last year EarthLore supported nine farmers from the three communities of Chiroorwe, Gangare and Mamutse to attend the event. This year, one farmer from each of these communities who attended last year was accompanied by two new farmers. An additional five farmers also attended, from the two new communities of Mutsinzwa and Mazvimba/Masasire that EarthLore is working with. The choice of farmers helps to extend the reach of this experience.
The participation of EarthLore in this event was thanks to the support of the Seed & Knowledge Initiative (SKI), the African Women’s Development Fund and Comic Relief.