Ever since the beginning of the ongoing lockdown which was announced on the 30th of March by the government to curb the spread of the pandemic coronavirus, life has not been easy for banana farmers from Honde valley who sell their produce at Mbare musika.
The agriculture sector, due to its worthy contribution to the country’s food security was exempted from the lock-down.
However, in Zimbabwe, the urban market centres which are operating informally are the main markets for a wide range of commodities hence can attract huge human traffic ,posing a high risk to COVID19.
During the lockdown ,these markets except the hub Mbare are closed, and farmers with fresh produce suffer huge losses.
Reduced demand for agricultural products can be attributed to reduced economic activity hence decline in disposable incomes, especially amongst the self-employed.
This is the story of Yeukai Nyakunhuwa, from Honde Valley , Zinde village , a single mother of four ,three boys and a girl, the last born.
Speaking to GreatDykeNews24 ,Nyakunhuwa said the lockdown has brought more harm than good within their business citing that before the lockdown, they used to sell more than 50 boxes of bananas weekly but now it’s a different situation.
“I started this business 20 years ago and everything has been going well with me and my family since then.
“My children have grown up, 3 of them have finished school and l come with them to the market whilst my 10 year old daughter will be taking care of the house chores. Ever since the beginning of the lockdown, things have never been easy for us as farmers.
“Before the lockdown we could sell up to 50 boxes of bananas per week but now we are selling less than four boxes per week,” she said.
She added, “Although it is not easy to come with the children cooking and sleeping here at an open space ,exposed to mosquitoes, thieves and bad weather ,we have been managing before but now we dying of hunger here in Harare.
“It’s been more than 3 weeks , since we came to Harare to sell our produce.
” Our customers are failing to come to the market in their numbers hence our prices remain very low because there is low demand.”
“I’m stuck with children here with our bananas ripening, failing to get the money to go back home. I am struggling to feed our stormachs here and lm sure my daughter back home is starving to death because we haven’t been able to send her money since we came.” she said.
This is the situation with almost all the farmers at the market since demand has drastically gone down.
“When things were normal , we used to sell more than 50-80 boxes of bananas per week but with the prevailing situation it is heartbreaking that we are selling less than four boxes per 2 weeks .
“The money that we got for the past 2 weeks is the same amount that we have been using to buy the food to eat whilst we are here and now we are left with nothing and our produce is perishing as you can see” said Munyaradzi Kahari a 27 year old man who comes from Chiweshe .
Having gone through loses , most farmers are failing to get the money to go back home and this has been a big drawback to the truck drivers who transport them to and from Mbare.
“I came here three weeks ago with the farmers from Honde valley .
“Usually when the business is normal , l transport one group from Honde Valley to Mbare and as soon as l get here l will be picking another group to Honde Valley.
“But with the current situation they all have been stuck here without money to go back home.This has affected me because my truck is parked here and l have nothing else to do,” said Titos Nyakunhuwa a truck driver.
According to the World Farmers Organisation (WFO), there is a need for a stimulus package directly targeted at supporting food value chains during and after the lockdown.
“In times of pandemics like COVID 19, food supply chains can be disturbed and government can provide that liquidity for farmers to go back to the fields and to put in place infrastructure like post harvest handling facilities to keep the excess produce.
“There is a need to have measures to manage loans so to ensure that there is continuity of production after the pandemic,” said WFO.