Regenerative Agriculture in Zimbabwe Renews Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers

How TechnoServe is working with producers and buyers so that smallholder farmers can sell goods and services across borders.

coffee visit (June 2019)

In 2020, smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe like Kennedy Musiiwa faced a major challenge.

Borders closed. Flights were canceled. As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down supply routes, smallholder farmers watched helplessly as their hard-won harvests rotted away before they could be sold.

“It was painful to witness farmers losing produce due to these unfortunate supply chain challenges,” says William Zirebwa, TechnoServe’s Zimbabwe Country Manager. 

Kennedy and his wife grew a bounty of crops that they relied on for their income: maize, onion, carrots, and sugar beans, among others. “We always struggled with market access, which resulted in significant losses,” says Kennedy.

But 2020 brought market challenges like never before.

Kennedy is one of the hundreds of smallholder farmers in Shurugwi, a mining district in central Zimbabwe, who has participated in an Anglo American-TechnoServe collaboration in learning sustainable and productive practices in horticulture, beef, and poultry.
Hear Kennedy’s story.

By working with producers and buyers, TechnoServe has strengthened pathways for these smallholder farmers to sell goods and services across borders and to new buyers. 

Why Produce Farmers in Zimbabwe Looked for Support

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened existing challenges for farmers in this district, such as  post-harvest losses. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that one third of the food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted along the supply chain. And according to Deloitte and the Rockefeller Foundation, the amount of food lost each year due to post-harvest loss is enough to feed the total number of undernourished people globally. In looking at sub-Saharan Africa alone, a region that is home to over 230 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment, 30-50% of production is lost at various points along the value chain.

Before working with TechnoServe, farmers in the mining district used to lose around 50% of their harvest due to limited storage capacity at Lingfield, a company that exports fresh produce to Europe.

So in 2021, TechnoServe connected with SunDanzer, a U.S.-based renewable energy company that was creating solar-powered cold storage facilities in Africa. SunDanzer worked with Lingfield to construct such a facility in Shurugwi, where it could prevent farmers’ crops from spoiling as quickly, hurting their incomes. 

The construction of a solar cold storage facility for fresh produce meant a significant reduction of post-harvest losses, with quality export volume percentage increasing from 50% to 70%. 

Better Practices Lead to Better Livelihoods

The farmers also learned techniques to improve the quality and yields of their produce, enabling them to earn better incomes.

They did so by working with TechnoServe to learn regenerative agricultural practices, like crop rotation, which improve both a farm’s production and environmental impact. Some of the benefits of this practice include:

  • Improved soil health
  • Less need for maintenance and pesticides, from naturally breaking the cycles of weeds, insects and diseases
  • Food and cover for wildlife

In 2021, the farmers TechnoServe worked with exported 16 tons of produce to European supermarkets. Additionally, by the end of that year, more than 400 farmers had been trained, with more still registering. By working with these farmers – more than half of whom were women – TechnoServe is continuing to combat gender inequality by engaging women to access markets, finances, and technical assistance.

One of these women farmers was Mai Dandure. “We had a long period of more than 10 years not utilizing the irrigation system,” says Mai. “We have had challenges in accessing inputs and technical agronomic information expert support. Our irrigation pump unit would continuously break down, which further made irrigating a challenge. We were mostly involved in dry land subsistence farming with no markets.”
Hear Mai’s story.

But the skills and income she gained recently have changed her prospects completely. “The proceeds we realized in 2020 from the peas crop working with TechnoServe enabled us to hire tractors to plow our fields,” says Mai. “We also managed to repair the pumping unit so that we could go full scale on irrigation. TechnoServe brought us knowledge of whole food management and access to markets.”

Kennedy Musiiwa echoes the impact of this work. “One of the key challenges we were faced with in the past was access to input credit and markets,” he says. “But through our partnership with TechnoServe and Anglo American, we can now access inputs on credit, which allows us to farm effectively in time.”

More than 800 new jobs have now been created since the start of this program–and should grow to nearly 2,000 by the end of this year. This will mean more farmers like Kennedy and Mai can overcome economic challenges and increase their incomes through renewable energy. 

As Kennedy says, “We hope to have a better tomorrow selling our produce to distant countries through the support we are receiving from TechnoServe.” 

Smallholder farmers like Kennedy and Mai need our support more than ever. Help them and give $100 today