Yet another issue is the way maize dominates the ‘food’ market. If there’s enough maize, there’s enough food in the country.
ZIMSOFF wants to approach its entry into value addition and marketing in a careful and considered way. The first step will be to conduct a mapping exercise to get a very good picture of the current food value addition and marketing issues in Zimbabwe today, linked to the way trends are moving. This will mean hiring consultants who see things with a food sovereignty lens to carry out this exercise.
There will then be an exercise, including a meeting, with stakeholders to identify the most suitable initiatives that ZIMSOFF could carry out within this field. ZIMSOFF has ideas of what these might be but doesn’t want to pre-empt the study in any way.
Marketing is a huge issue for farmers. Up until now ZIMSOFF as an organization has largely stayed away from moving the marketing agenda forward for agro-ecological farmers. This is because it is a complex and difficult area to work in. Where to start? What is the role of ZIMSOFF, which is primarily an advocacy organization?
ZIMSOFF members, however, are dealing with this issue constantly either in terms of developing their own value addition or marketing activities, or suffering the consequences of being part of a scheme which exploits them.
There are probably some schemes out there, under something like ‘contract farming’ that are beneficial to both sides but most such approaches end up exploiting smallholder farmers. Cash cropping across the continent, and Zimbabwe is no exception, has long turned smallholder farmers into cheap labour in their value chain. Chain is indeed a good word as farmers are often chained into a process that pays them a pittance for their labour once costs of all inputs are subtracted from payouts.
Another issue related to value addition and marketing is the way that ‘organic’ produce tends to be seen as something for the elite and is in fact often over-priced.