WE arrived as the sun peaked over Mutoko mountains.
The mid-afternoon light was hazy, with a tremulous shimmer. Outside Madzeka Bottle Store in Mutoko is where I met my host. The heat from the sun’s glare was pervasive. With my eyes screwed up against the harsh blinding halations, I saw a noisy scatter of children emerge from the dust to greet us.
My host, I later discovered, was famous for his generosity and travelled with bags of biscuits and sweets for the kids.
I was taken through to Nyamukoho, Mandimutsa, Karonga, Katsande and Nyakabawu areas. Here he pointed out the poor condition of the cattle, the pastures and the roads.
He said: “For too long, Mutoko has been condescendingly described as a rural setting in search of a town.”
From my observation on the ground and from hearsay, one gets the feeling that Command Livestock has by-passed Mutoko, yet the potential is huge. There is a developed cattle ranching operation here, a homestead there and an abattoir several kilometres from the villages.
For the most part, the villages and farmlands seem to be limited, not only by water supplies and lack of dipping facilities, but also most basic agro-services and supplies are hard to come by in the area.
An expedient rural development and the expansion of intensive agro-services would help to bring to fruition the goals of Government’s Command Agriculture and Command Livestock programmes while taking a neglected community into the 21st Century.
The commercial core of Mutoko’s centre is currently restricted to a few commercial banks, some departmental shops as well as the ever-present bottle stores and flea markets.
I was surprised to see a jail near the police post; instant justice I mused. The potential for horticulture, however, together with the wealth of various minerals in the area such as the black granite and other semi-precious stones as well as the potential for tourism can restore Motoko’s pre-historic legacy and fame.
Mutoko could once again become a thriving, burgeoning centre that it was in pre-colonial Zimbabwe.
Equally, Mutoko is in dire need of arterial road resurfacing in order for agricultural produce to be exploited and developed sustainably. An area known as Pamadomasi in Mutoko is a well-known horticultural wholesale, supplying fruit and vegetable to Mbare Musika and even exporting fruit to neighbouring countries, so I was informed.
History has it that: “Economically, the people of Mutoko were not poor; figures collected in 1903 show, on the whole, the people of Mutoko had large herds of livestock; estimated conservatively they were put as 2 181 head of cattle, 1 504 sheep and over 4 500 goats.
In addition, the people had regular trade with Portuguese traders. So, despite any crop failure and possible pest problems of the people of Mutoko were considered to be fairly well off. The people were also well-armed.”
Colonial pioneer and hunter Frederick Courtney Selous, during his escapades in Mutoko, observed: “… a nation, and what is more, a warlike nation, capable of putting several thousands of warriors into the field… it is difficult to estimate numbers but I am sure that at this interview Motoko was surrounded by far over a thousand men, all fully armed, and a large number of them with guns.”
Today, as I travelled around, most of the conversation throughout my tour of the villages and wards in Mutoko revolved around the lack of infrastructure, particularly for the development of agriculture.
On hearing the news of my arrival, the day before, a group of new farmers trickled in from the various areas of Suswe, Kajena, Kwakondo, Masunzwa, Chingwena, Chifamba, Dendera (St Pious), Masenda, Madimutsa and Nyamakosi, all with much anticipation of a miracle – regrettably, I did not have one at hand. However, their concerns pointed to the fact that Mutoko is in dire need of robust extension services.
“There are no dips …,” “…only one dip …,” “…our cattle have to travel many kilometres to the nearest dip tank…,” — the nearest one is near Mudzi-Kotwe.
“No extension services or veterinary supplies…,” lamented the farmers. There were also complaints that the pastures were now limited for the number of cattle in the respective areas.
Overgrazing and soil degradation had obviously taken their toll.
But these were enough complaints for a hot day.
A cocky agricultural salesman cut into our conversation with assertive confidence: “MaRasta, mawuya nemushonga wekudhibisa mombe here? Muri mudhumeni here? Kana kuti mawuya kuzotenga zvinhu zvedu zviya? Hamuna mashuwa? Kana kuti mutori muplain clothes henyu? Asi muri kutsvaka mombe dzirikubiwa?” (Did you bring cattle dipping solution? Are you on agricultural business or are you here to purchase the ‘golden leaf’ (mbanje)? Or perhaps you might just be a plain clothes detective following up on stock theft? Who knows anything these days?)
I ignored his cynical remarks.
Most rural cattle ranchers were primarily concerned with the supplies of drinking water and the long distances to the dip tank, where most drovers herded oxen for many kilometres for several hours to the single dip tank that services seven wards in villages in the surrounding area.
Obviously, some cattle collapse from heat exhaustion and thirst before arriving at the dip tank.
What was pleasantly surprising for me was that many of the rural cattle owners were highly literate and educated men and women, well versed in their various agricultural fields of interest, notwithstanding the lack of capital and means to enable them to flourish sustainably.
It was this economic disparity that prompted my current report on the need for a rapid rural agro-development in this historically productive region with a view to helping bring improvements in livestock farming and horticulture for the people of Mutoko and, thus, the nation.
Protecting and preserving our national cattle herd must be bolstered by infrastructure and rural development as well as agricultural extension services and education.
Mutoko, the land of Nehoreka Shumba Nyamuzihwa could become the horticultural centre and agro hub of Zimbabwe, ensuring food security for the nation, if given its due development quota.
In the current progressive climate of the new dispensation, the yoke of underdevelopment in Mutoko should become a thing of the past.
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer, musician, art critic, practicing artist and corporate image consultant. He is also a specialist art consultant, post-colonial scholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher. E-mail: tonym.MONDA@gmail.com
WE arrived as the sun peaked over Mutoko mountains.