4 12 2010

I couldn’t believe how naive I’d been to just assume that there would be power out at Mazowe to get my import permit printed. I closed my eyes and said something really controlled like “I cannot believe this”. The clerk said “It’s your country too” somehow implying that I was responsible for the inconsistency of the power supply. I could think of a response to that but I shut up and asked if they could print it another way. He said they were not going to start the generator to print one import permit and that I should wait a while (how long is a “while”?) to see if anyone else arrived to make it worthwhile. So I sat down and read the notices on the wall reminding customers of the various crop destruction dates that I know are not enforced. Then I needed to find a toilet and decided it was a good enough excuse to explore.

The Plant Protection Research Institute is, as the name suggests, the government agency tasked with keeping an eye on controlling pests and diseases in Zimbabwe in the various crops grown here. All import permits for any sort of plant products are issued here. Once situated behind Bob’s official residence (where he has not resided for some years) near the centre of Harare, it moved some 30km north of Harare to Henderson Research Station in 2002. It’s in a pleasant setting; the Mazowe hills back the property and its quiet and rural. Very quiet as I found out. In the three laboratories that I investigated only one even had chairs and they were office chairs too low to use at lab benches. There were half a dozen test tubes in a rack near a sink but that was all. The glasshouses out the back of the office block were empty.

Then I bumped into someone I knew. M is a pleasant lady who has been working at the PPRI for quite a long time; at least since we imported some olive trees from Egypt and South Africa to be grown by Wedza farmers. I asked her what was being done at the PPRI. Pleased that someone was showing some interest she took me into a growth room and showed me about 12 petri dishes in which imported seeds were being tested for contamination (they were contaminated) but it was all a bit sad. She admitted that there was no money being put into research. We discussed the general situation in the country for a while and bemoaned the depletion of the knowledge base as the commercial farmers had dispersed around the world. Then I asked why GMO was such a dirty word in Zimbabwe – all GMOs are banned.

It all started with a donation of GM maize to Zimbabwe from the US government for the express purpose of feeding the people in the pre-US dollar days. The maize HAD to be milled and the germ, which for various reasons is not included in refined maize meal in this country, HAD to be destroyed lest it find its way into cattle feed destined for the UK where GM cattle feed is prohibited. “Of course the politicians got hold of the issue, totally misunderstood it and turned it (the GM issue) into a monster” she continued with a shrug. The power had been on for some time now so we parted company and promised to keep in touch. I collected the corrected import permit from the front desk which expressly stated that the pine bark that I was importing from South Afrca had to complyh with the conditions – “NO GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOs) were involved in the production of seed, planting material, plant parts and/or plant material…” and drove back to the nursery.



One response

4 12 2010
Big Blister

Wow, that’s the organization I worked for…!

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