Sunday, March 6, 2011

The farmers weekly article by Tarirai Mpofu

Once again the farmers weekly magazine had found it worth to publish my letter. Though I have not seen the copy yet below is what I sent to the editor , hope he did not edit it much. The article was in the 18 february issue.

They need goals

Editor it is of great concern to me that most of the so called emerging farmers are failing to put the land under productive use. I had personally concluded that among others the lack of productivity comes from not knowing what to do with the land rather than lacking capacity. It is widely believed that capacity is what emerging farmers need but I am putting that second to goals and objectives.

Farmers need to understand that, when they have taken up or acquired land by whatever means the fist and foremost thing is to clearly layout what they intend to achieve in form of short comprehensive statements that are usually known as objectives. As farming is not only turning available agricultural resources into money but also a way of turning some of the available money into resources that enhances and helps the ecosystem to ultimately support your farming process. Sadly a few farmers even the experienced ones does not understand the principle of holistic goal formation. The way in which every aspect present on the farm is considered in forming goals, the way of putting landscape and quality of life first before production and profit. Jumping into applying tools or production principles on the land without well designed and collectively attained goals is just like a military troop following the command to grab their guns and put them into use with little or no knowledge of what they are fighting for and for how long. Our lands have different characteristics, brittle, non-brittle, arid, arable, low velds and high velds all these determine what one can use his/her farm for. It is not what the neighbor is doing that controls your objectives and goals.

I think goal formation had never been so useful until now when our Earth is showing big signs of misuse and is unfortunately throwing natural disasters and climate change in the face of the poor and emerging farmers. This might seem to be a big challenge that one farmer’s effort cannot make a dent, but following a well planned mission will make a difference at least to one’s farm. Clearly stating what kind of legumes you need to establish, how many thorn trees you want to see per acre, how much ground cover must be left your pastures when the herd is moved to another, location of water troughs and how many ox-packers you want to see hanging around with your herd in 2 years time .These factors determines what your farm will finally look like and comprise of, they are therefore called landscape goals. Emerging livestock farmers’ objectives must be focused mostly on designing their landscape than on profit figures. This holistic approach will help them to build a stable, diverse and sustainable environment that will produce milk and meat almost entirely as by- products.

I have been discreetly following a group of residents in my farm community here who have a great quest of benefiting from land reform program but are failing to reach the department of lands’ offices because of lack of consensus on what the land will be used for. In this case where a family or a group of people are shareholders and decision makers, the goal formation process must better not include the word profit at all but come as statements that describe the QUALITY OF LIFE that everybody is looking forward to get from the land. Every one should think deeply about their lives and freely put forward their values broadly in terms of cultural activity, employment opportunities, security, freedom, healthy, food, etc. Taking statements like ‘making profit from vegetables’ as a goal will normally raise conflicts on what tools to apply and therefore cause a deadlock. The values of life mentioned above will ultimately make profit if well followed. A group of emerging farmers working on creation of employment and production of health food as a goal will obviously realize some money accumulating in their accounts not only from dividends but reduced supermarket purchases as they start producing to meet their healthy food goal.

Our small scale and emerging farmers are devoid of goals and their inexperience in setting them rationally leads to much confusion, unattainable goals, non-goals and goals mixed with tools. Without goals land cannot be managed sensibly let alone economically. I understand they are emerging but as long as they are not emerging from mars lets teach them to set goals and objectives first.

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