It’s still a beautiful country

23 05 2021
Centenary – northern Zimbabwe

Graeme farms near the very small town of Centenary in northern Zimbabwe. He is one of the few white commercial farmers still left in the area. He and his father didn’t escape the land redistribution exercise in the 2000s unscathed and now he leases back some of his own land from a new “owner”. His philosophical about it – “You do what you have to do” he said, shrugging. He doesn’t let relatively small issues like that get in the way of his larger vision – which is refreshing in the generally downbeat Zimbabwean business environment.

Graeme has 70ha of avocados and that’s just on his farm. He has plans to recruit small scale growers to increase the total area up to 250ha. That will be a lot of fruit. I’m told he’ll reap 20 – 25 tonnes of marketable fruit off each ha. I do wonder where he will find the labour force to do that as driving around the countryside there was precious little farming going on.

The pack-house is not yet built and both he and his father are off on a trip to South Africa to look for a grading machine that will cost something close to half-a-million US dollars. He did admit to me that his marketing programme was still very much nascent but several South African marketing companies had heard of his plans and were courting his business.

On the way back to town we stopped on a very quiet road to take the photo above. There were no other vehicles. The countryside was still beautiful with large trees. Closer to town, in the Mazowe Valley, the bush had been heavily chopped for firewood and there were few big trees.

My covid “passport”

Covid vaccinations in Zimbabwe have been surprisingly well organized. The programme did get off to a slow, erratic start with only a few medical centres offering the service. It has since been streamlined and numerous clinics and hospitals around Harare are open.

I had my vaccinations done at a rather dilapidated clinic in the neighbourhood which has been closed for some years but which opened for the purpose of vaccinations. Curiously there is a large, relatively new, solar panel array in the car-park. I couldn’t find out who’d put it in or what it’s purpose is. Getting the vaccinations was straightforward – all they needed to see was my identity card which all Zimbabweans carry. I didn’t have a choice of vaccine. All vaccines in Zimbabwe are distributed by the government and are free. The government doesn’t have any money for this sort of thing so I presume we are part of the COVAX programme – the various partners of which have logos on the vaccination “passport” that I received.

My neighbour at work, Sue, is a retired public health doctor who spent many years in the local sector. She couldn’t shed any light on who was behind the organisation of the vaccination programme but did say we have a good government laboratory. I took the opportunity to ask her to speak to my staff, none of whom have had a vaccination. My foreman told me there were several rumours doing the rounds of WhatsApp, one of which was a plot to depopulate Africa! Sue agreed, she has vast experience in this sort of thing having been involved in vaccination drives in the 1970s that curtailed measles. All concerns of my staff were answered and I sensed a reduction in the anxiety level but we’ll see if that translates into visits to the local clinics for the vaccination.

Pure delight!

The annual Husqvana-sponsored Mud Run is normally held in February at the height of the rainy season. Proceeds go to a local cancer charity, KidzCan, that sources cancer treatment for disadvantaged children. This year it had to be delayed because of the Covid epidemic so was held last Saturday at a disused golf course near to where I live in Harare. It’s on the edge of a wetland and despite the dry season the course took little water to get the desired muddy conditions.

Anti-covid measures were noticeable in restricted access to the course though masks were optional on the participants (ever tried breathing through a muddy mask?). Participants were sent off in well-spaced batches starting at first light so the photography opportunities were sparse but the delight at being out was noticeable.

It’s difficult to ascertain that status of the Covid epidemic in Zimbabwe. During the last lock-down we all received weekly status reports by SMS but these have since stopped. Schools have been back in the classroom for around 6 weeks now and I regularly see school children on my way to work flaunting masks and social distancing. My staff are certainly wary and I don’t have to remind them to wash hands or wear masks. Will there be a “third wave”? We will have to wait and see.


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4 responses

23 05 2021
tuppit260

Will you be supplying the avo trees to the small scale growers as they emerge?
Good news on the vaccine front!

23 05 2021
gonexc

We hope so. He supplies us with most of the grafting material.

24 05 2021
Eugene

Jumbo, glad to hear some positive news from the old country, even if it is tinged with caution.

24 05 2021
gonexc

Now if I can get the orders for the planned 250ha of avocado trees I’ll be very pleased!

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