Chanetsa Farm field day: An encounter with the future

Zim farming

LAST week on Friday, I attended a field day at a farm in Glendale, Mashonaland Central province. The farm is a joint venture between Godfrey Chanetsa and the York family.

Chanetsa Farm was a hive of activity. On arrival, you could see the host constantly glancing at his watch and making last-minute logistical checks, while industry players set up their displays.

As local neighbours arrived, you could see journalists taking videos and clicking away their cameras.

It was a typical field day, except that this looked a little bit different.

It was a picturesque scenery with large green winter wheat fields stretching far against a blue sky horizon.

The host farmer, 33-year-old Kane York, was dressed for the occasion.

He wore a no-frills blue shirt, shorts and dark glasses.

His presentation was insightful too, as he took his audience through his daily routine, and spoke about farming in general.

Flanking him, and adding details to his story,  was the local Agritex team headed by provincial agronomist 42-year old Cain Loki.

It looked very much like a team effort as the group fielded questions from farmers gathered around.

“This season (power utility) Zesa has been very good to us,” he said.

“They have been responsive where faults have been reported.“Where the farmer could help with transport and a little labour, problems have been attended  to very quickly,” York told the gathering.

Recent studies have revealed that hundreds of tonnes of chemicals and waste-water from unbridled mining activities along the river's banks are being dumped annually into Mazowe River, accounting for a 5% of the river's volume.

“This has pushed into extinction almost a third of the river’s native fish species over the years and made long stretches unfit even for irrigation,” the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute of Environmental Studies noted in one of its recent working and discussion papers.

On irrigation, York said: “We have had issues with our source of irrigation water in Mazowe River, which has been affected by mining activities there.

“We obviously understand the broader national priorities and the need to share the water with miners.

“In any case, our concerns are getting the attention of relevant authorities and we are hopeful of quick resolution.”

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture John Basera, who also spoke at the event, said the joint venture was bearing fruit.

“What we are seeing here is the culmination of deliberate strategies and policies that have been designed to stimulate agricultural growth,” he said.

“What we see here is the joint venture (JV) platform come good.

“The success of the electricity ring-fencing plan, the backstopping capabilities of Agritex, the commitment and science-driven practice of farming and the outcome of private sector linkages.

“In short, we are beginning to see agricultural growth at farm hold level, which will culminate in economic dividends in the whole economy through employment creation, import substitution and local supplies of industry raw materials.

“We believe all the dominoes are lined up”, Basera said.

An encounter with the future?

In all the bustle, one thing stood out.

While York was the centre of attention, his father, 65-old Alan York, kind of melted in the background.

You could see he was determined to let his son run the show, lending support without sucking away all the oxygen.

Towards the end, as the permanent secretary was preparing to leave, Alan York walked to the top table and had a few words with him.

A few moments after that, his son rose and went to his father: a fleeting, enigmatic father-son eye-contact and bumping of shoulders.

It was an intimate, mundane yet strangely significant gesture.

It looked like a generational encounter - a passing of the baton stick.

In embracing JVs and the dictates of the new agrarian order, the Yorks are adapting to changed land tenure realities.

But in sharing their expertise and resources with their neighbours and community, the Yorks are defining the future of farming in Zimbabwe.

It is a future different from the past, that’s for sure.

And if the sense of community that was shared over sadza and beef was anything to go by, it is an agricultural future, which is not only more just and sustainable, but one in which race is nothing but an anecdotal description of difference.

Magwiroto is a freelance journalist and lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, Department of community and social development, Faculty of social and behavioural sciences.

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