The organic approach taking farmers to new markets

The organic approach taking farmers to new markets

“Where to sell our vegetables was bound to be a mind boggling challenge to most of us but thanks to SNV working with us on the ground, our products have a ready market” smiles Dion Mukori, one of many Zimbabwe smallholder farmers working growing organically certified vegetables to supply large supermarkets chains and businesses, as part of the Rural Agricultural Revitalisation Project, funded by Danida.

Linking smallholders to stable markets and improving their farming skills to meet supply requirements is a corner stone of the SNV Sustainable Markets approach. SNV has connected these smallholders to the supply chains of retailers Pick n’ Pay and Midland Spar, and to Servcor at Unki Mine.

“Steering smallholder farmers to certification involves supporting producers through a number of steps in the certification cycle." said Cloffas Nyagumbo, the SNV Horticulture team leader managing the project. These steps include certification scouting by assessing market needs and types of standards; planning for certification through awareness raising and group organisation; and following implementation supporting on-going training, compliance, and auditing of the standards.

Working with Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association Trust, hundreds of farmers on the programme have now been trained and received organic certification. These farmers can earn more for their product, while implementing farming techniques that help mitigate climate change effects and protect their environment.

The approach was initially met with scepticism from communities in an area that had previously only supported subsistence farming.

“In Shurugwi we have not been getting good rainfalls for many years and the majority of us were no longer interested in farming.” says Dion.

Elson Maramwidzemoyo agrees “It was early last year when SNV approached the villagers through our councillors to participate in organic farming, and it did not make sense to me.”

However SNV identified a wetland suitable for growing organic vegetables and encouraged the farming community to get involved.

“The future and sustainability of agriculture is a stable ecosystem. Hence SNV believe in organic farming as the future for smallholder farmers. The market for organic food has grown rapidly, and there is acknowledgement that artificial fertilizers have serious longer term side effects including soil erosion, declines in soil fertility, and health concerns about toxic chemicals in food supply.” observes Elton Mudyazvivi, SNV Agriculture Sector Leader. “We need to preserve our wetlands and take organic farming to commercialisation stage.”

Currently benefitting over 500 households, the programme is implementing market gardens and has also introduced ponds for fish farming. “We expect to harvest our first batch of fish next month. We have over 1050 fish and we hope to realise a lot of money from it when we harvest them.” says Dion.

“When this project came we embraced it in the hope that at least we can venture into another type of farming, and now it starting to bear fruits. We have started supplying our products to supermarkets such as Midlands Spar and True Fresh. It is very encouraging.”

Integrating SNV solutions such as Resilient Food Systems, Inclusive Business and Evergreen Farms, this programme is addressing a variety of challenges facing smallholders, such as climate change impacts, lack of market access, farmer capacity, certification and quality. Elson Maramwidzemoyo is very positive for the future. “Now the project is beginning to make a lot of sense, and looks very important as a life changing project for rural folks like us.”