The current Zimbabwean macroeconomic challenges which have been worsened by global economic disruptions such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, have had a negative impact on the livelihoods of urbanites.
Prices of basic commodities have been skyrocketing, while salary increase has taken a lackadaisical trajectory. This has necessitated diversification of means of income for resilience to the economic shocks.
Having noticed the need for multiple revenue streams, Mr and Mrs Marufu from Bulawayo’s Sauerstown suburb decided to venture into urban agriculture to leverage the demand for horticultural products in Zimbabwe’s second largest city.
Despite their diverse horticultural choice, tomatoes are their major crop which they consider to be the most lucrative. Other supplementary crops grown include carrots, peas, butternut, and cucumbers.
The crops are grown throughout the year in different phases, and water for irrigation is obtained from a borehole. Cognisant of the need to conserve water, the family invested in drip irrigation, a micro-irrigation system which ensures the maximum use of available water.
A medium early variety (Avanos Tomato Amukela Plus) tomato plant that is considered highly adapted to Zimbabwean conditions has been preferred.
“We use a hybrid variety which we buy from Avanos. We used to do our own nurseries but in this last batch, we purchased the seedlings from DK Seedlings in Gweru,” said Mrs Marufu.
The variety guarantees a yield of 110-140mt/ha. Other advantages include excellent vigour and leaf cover, extra-large oblate fruits, very firm fruit with thick fleshy walls, excellent shelf life, and that it does well in both an open field and in a greenhouse.
The produce is sold at the vegetable market in town, and the market is readily available and sustainable. However, considerable losses can be experienced when the market becomes flooded, hence the need for timing.
The farming family bemoaned the high costs of inputs, especially fertilisers and chemicals, as a major challenge that affects profitability. Mrs Marufu also said land size is the major impediment for business growth as the current approximate half an acre is small.