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    Friday, 8 March 2019

    GZU Dean attacks lavish Chiredzi sugarcane farmers


    CHIREDZI -  Many Mkwasine sugarcane farmers are destroying soils on their farms by spending too much money on their lavish lifestyles and investing little in land conservation.
    This is according Great Zimbabwe University, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture Soil and Plant Sciences, Professor Munashe Shoko who was speaking at a workshop organized by the Zimbabwe Sugarcane Development Association (ZSDA).
    He said that over 1 000 hectares of sugarcane plantations in Mkwasine will no longer grow sugarcane in a short time because of sodicity and salinity which is caused by poor drainage system and poor farming methods.
    New indigenous sugarcane farmers are known for their expensive tastes, driving state of the art vehicles and living large but Shoko said this is a stark contrast with what obtains in their sugarcane fields which are slowly dying.
    Mkwasine farmers settled under empowerment programmes are known for their poor maintenance of fields as compared to Hippo Valley and Triangle. As a result Mkwasine has lost its glamour as the Little England of the Lowveld before the land grabs in the year 2000.
    Speaking to The Mirror on the sidelines of the workshop, Shoko said it is unfortunate that due to poor farming methods and reluctance by some farmers to invest back on the land, many fields are getting exhausted and it will be very expensive to resuscitate them.
    He said farmers must continue to seek guidance from specialists like Tongaat employees on how to maintain their drainage system.
    “Over-irrigation without a proper drainage system raises the water table. Cane does not require water as you think yourself, so what happens is when you over-apply water, it raises the water table such that when you apply fertiliser it fails to go down, that creates a whitish substance which is called sodium.
    “Sodic soils are characterised by a disproportionately high concentration of sodium in their cation exchange complex or containing an exchangeable percentage which is greater than 15%. Now the problem is when it happens like this, it means that the land is a complete write-off.
    “The farmer needs to quickly do what we call rehabilitation. He has to work on his drainage system to make sure that the water that is seated here drains to somewhere. This is very costly, because the farmer has to apply lots and lots of gypsum.
    “I am so disappointed, because this is not a loss only to the sugar industry, but to the nation at large. I don’t know why it is like this. I think these farmers should have continued working with officials from Tongaat to get advice on how they should maintain their drains before they left,” said Shoko.
    A senior sugarcane farmer who requested anonymity told The Mirror that there is a big gap in farming methods between outgrower farmers in Hippo Valley and Mkwasine. He said those in Mkwasine concentrate more on buying expensive cars while they stay in compounds left by Tongaat Hulett but those in Hippo and Triangle concentrate more on proper and competitive farming and most of them built their own houses.
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