ODZI — While the land reform programme has been viewed through some negative lenses, for Philemon Matibe, it has become a game-changer with his farming activities that have brought another agriculture dimension to Odzi.

BY KENNETH NYANGANI

Matibe returned to the country early last year after living in the United States for 20 years.He said as a patriotic Zimbabwean, he had invested almost half a million United States dollars in farming projects.

Matibe currently has projects on three farms he is leasing in Odzi.The farmer has also invested in tractors, graders, centre pivots and some irrigation equipment among other machinery.

The farmer is focusing on various crops such as tobacco, wheat, maize and tomatoes among others.Further, he has secured two more farms under lease in Odzi, where he is set to expand his farming projects.

NewsDay toured the farms last weekend and the workers were in high spirits, as they celebrated the first anniversary of the lease of the farms.
In his first year of farming, he harvested several crops such tobacco and wheat.

“I was in America for the past 20 years and as a family, we decided to come back. We looked around for derelict and underutilised farms. We decided to go ahead and invest in the rehabilitation of these farms since I was convinced of the sincerity of the new dispensation,” he said.

“When you do farming, you need to be hands-on. This is the reason why I spent most of my time monitoring what will be happening at the farms. I invested almost half a million United States dollars in the farming projects. At the peak of the farming season, we employ almost 200 workers who are all on full salary.”

Added Matibe: “My workers are happy and this is the reason you are seeing them smiling because we give them their salaries on time, and we also give them grocery hampers including mealie-meal, cooking oil, soap, sugar and other commodities.”

The farmer narrated the challenges he is facing.
“I think my main challenge is vandalism of my irrigation equipment, but we are trying to manage it by working 24 hours with my security team,” he said.
Farm manager Manetsa Kamarizeni said he had vast experience in farming and that he started farming almost three decades ago.

“Currently, we are working on three farms, all the three farms are about 1 300 hectares. We are targeting two more farms in the Odzi area,” Kamarizeni said.
“We have a horticulture project where we are looking forward to put vast tracts of land under tomato, where we have already secured a ready market in Mozambique.”

He said they employed as student interns such as Susan Fireyi, who is studying at Magamba Training Centre for a Diploma in General Agriculture.

“I am on a 10-month attachment programmeand am happy because I have gained the much-needed experience,” she said.

“I now have a vision to start my own farming projects when I finish my diploma at Magamba Training Centre,” Fireyi said.

Enia Sithole (36) ,who has three children, said Matibe was a game-changer in their life.

“We are happy at the farm because we are being paid our salaries on time and I have three children. I have managed to send all my children to school because of the proceeds from the farm,” she said

“Every month, we are also being given food hampers and we are provided with transport every day when we are coming to work and when going home.”

Another worker, Privilege Sande (31), said the farming projects introduced by Matibe were a game-changer.

“The farming projects introduced at the farm are a game-changer. Previously, we did not have any experience in farming. Now I have learnt a lot. I appreciate what our boss is doing at the farm,” she said

A villager in Odzi, Susan Sande, said they bought tomatoes at affordable prices from the farm.

“The farm has brought great change because we get tomatoes at affordable prices. We used to travel to Mutare to buy tomatoes, but this new project has come into our lives as a blessing and we are happy,” he said.

Another villager, Timothy Sigauke, weighed in, saying his family had benefited greatly from the farm. “We buy tomatoes at a cheap price and we resell them at a reasonable profit,” he said.

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