Close to three million people in Zimbabwe are directly dependent on tobacco production while the industry directly and indirectly employs over 350 000 people from the farms to the factories
Buhle Nkomo Correspondent —
“My husband lost his job as a general hand when the company he worked for in Bulawayo closed down,” said Taipa Ngoshi (45), a female tobacco grower based in Maunga farm in Karoi. Following this, Ngoshi and her husband went to stay with their inlaws on a farm where her father in-law was a tobacco farmer. This was the only option available to them.
“My father-in-law gave us a portion of land and encouraged us to grow tobacco. We committed to learning good agronomic practices in tobacco production as it was our only way out,” Ngoshi said. She added that in the year 2000 they acquired two hectares of land under the land reform programme. Her husband encouraged her to register as a grower.
“Barely three years later, just when we thought our lives were beginning to flourish and we were happy as a family, my husband fell ill. He died after a short illness. Without warning, I became both the father and mother to our children,” Ngoshi revealed.
She immediately took over the fields and all ensuing processes. “We had a good crop in the field when he died and I was determined to see it through. I made a resolve to fight poverty through hard work. I produced good tobacco at the end of the season,” she explained.
She said growing tobacco has sustained her and her two daughters from the time her husband passed on.
“I am now contracted to Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco (ZLT) which is a good thing as the organisation is helpful when it comes to inputs, best practices as well as recent information with regards to tobacco production.
“I planted 2 hectares of tobacco and I got about 4 000 kilogrammes last season under the ZLT contract. ZLT is so supportive, it provides farming inputs and an extension officer to guide us during the season. That is how I survive. We do not complain about prices,” Ngoshi said with a smile.
She said her farming project has enabled her to take care of her children, the welfare of her late brother’s children and her parents who are now advanced in age. Apart from tobacco, Ngoshi is growing groundnuts which she uses to make peanut butter for family consumption as well as the local market.
Ngoshi bought a stand and she intends to build a house in the near future. She also hopes to buy farm equipment. Ngoshi says she encountered both the good and ill in her journey but has never shifted her focus from tobacco.
“I usually have challenges when it’s time for harvest especially with reaping. It’s a mammoth task to transport the harvested leaves of tobacco from the fields to the barn. It is an enormous task particularly for us ladies. When my husband was alive it was not as bad as it is now.
“In 2012, I encountered a lot of spongy tobacco due to delay in transporting and curing leading to decreased prices. Challenges are however part of life and I will not give up,” Ngoshi added.
Ngoshi is also considering drip irrigation facility being offered by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board in order to mitigate the impact of climate change. She urges women to take part in the growing of tobacco in order to increase their visibility in society and to fend for their families.
“I would like to encourage other women, widows and single mothers in particular to register as growers so that they can fend for themselves. I eat from the sweat of my hands. For me remarrying is not an option. There is AIDS and I do not want to live behind my children a miserable lot,” she said with a chuckle.
She said if given an equal opportunity women can become economically independent as active and productive farmers.
Ngoshi is one of the over 80 000 registered tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe who are generating 21 percent of the country’s foreign currency. Close to three million people in Zimbabwe are directly dependent on tobacco production while the industry directly and indirectly employs over 350 000 people from the farms to the factories.
The capital investment in the tobacco industry runs into billions of dollars, covering farming infrastructure, industrial complexes, equipment, machinery for processing and storage facilities. The tobacco industry as a whole is