Throw away vegetables
Embattled vegetable growers of Maphatsindvuku outside Siteki are now giving away their ready vegetables as animal feed or turning the plants over in order to give way for maize planting now that they have lost the Siteki market.
This is because another highly equipped farm a few kilometres from the plateau town is supplying the produce direct to Siteki vendors at the market adjacent the bus rank and at very attractive prices. This has cut the need for vendors to pay for transport costs to purchase their daily stock of veggies at Maphatsindvuku about 15 kilometres away.
In the process the 79 vegetable producers have been marginalised and left stranded with their crop as no other buyers come to the garden save for pockets of villagers who buy in insignificantly small quantities, no more than E10 at a time.
Desperate times have called for desperate measures as the farmers, mainly mothers, a number of them widows who single handedly raise orphans, are joining hands to hire a half lorry belonging to one Mbhamali, a fellow farmer, to ferry their produce to the Manzini market about 50 kilometres away on a daily basis even though this might not as profitable at least it would be better than destroying the large acreage of produce all because there is no buyer.
“Even if we make a loss at least we shall have salvaged our labours by getting the cash no matter how little than to give our vegetables to cattle,” says Thuli Matsebula, a woman farmer who also supplements here income by selling other consumer items to fellow farmers wakes up every morning to till the land on the World Vision assisted farmland.
Magulahamba Tembe appears somewhat completely disillusioned about the future and wants to relocate to the city now that the garden can no longer sustain his family. He is giving up on the hardships of surviving in drought prone Lubombo region, a situation that has been worsened by the sudden removal of their market in Siteki.
“It is not easy here, we use to survive and send our children to school, we had fresh produce from the garden and would exchange for other types of food but currency is always the most convenient for acquiring goods and services. Without the cash very many of us will perish.”
Last July when we were at Maphatsindvuku we asked the farmers how their relations were with the National Agricultural Marketing Board NAMBoard regaring the sale of their produce and they expressed a number of misgivings including that of pricing. However this time around they have also alleged that they rejected the NAMBoard prescriptions to their problems in that they were not supposed to take as much as a single crop for consumption at home in any of the plots designated for the NAMBoard bound produce. However they felt since they lived from hand-mouth they could not possibly plant edible plants and not even have a taste of their labour with the buyer taking everything for himself without leaving “anything even for the children to nibble at.”
“As NAMBoard, we welcome the right of choice by famers as to who to sell to, where and when following that this is an open market economy. Actually we promote it. In advancing this position, NAMBoard is working with all the market players including the community markets, retail shops, restaurants to grow purchase of local produce in their basket of vegetables .In the past year alone over 75 per cent (6000 tons) of produce of the total recorded volumes has been bought by restaurant retail shops , with the remaining 25per cent moved by NAMBoard. Our market price surveys also show that most chain stores with branches in RSA buy vegetables at a relatively higher price locally when compared to their partners in the Republic of South Africa.”
A wheelbarrow full of spinach at
WEARY: Thuli Matsebula supplements her earnings from vegetable farming with selling groceries to fellow farmers at the Maphatsindvuku gardens.
GREEN GOLD: Vegetables waiting for any price on offer to be eaten away, farmers are willing to accept anything.