Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Shadreck Makombe has said commodity associations hold key for the growth of the agriculture sector.
The former secretary general of ZCFU was elected president of the union in 2018, succeeding Wonder Chabikwa.
Makombe said his focus was to improve productivity in the sector and focused on specialist groups such as the Zimbabwe Association of Tobacco Growers, the Grain/Cereals Producers Association, the Horticulture Producers Association, the Livestock Producers Association, and the Cotton Growers Association, among others.
“Commodity associations are important in that they lobby for producer prices, search for cheap inputs and equipment, and advise government on behalf of its members, provide technical advice and organise issues affecting their members,” Makombe said.
Each commodity association is linked to the union through two representative positions reserved at each level of the union structure.
The union lobbies for and negotiate conducive and favourable agricultural polices to benefit the members and the farmers in general, such as the lobbying for fair pricing at auction floors and the Grain Marketing Board.
The union also lobbies for subsidised farming inputs programmes for its members and cash and trade discounts from strategic partners for the benefit of union.
Prior to that Makombe also served at district and provincial level.
Makombe spoke about his journey to the top.
“I served at district and provincial levels and as the Union Secretary General from 2012 till 2018 when I ascended to the presidency and I have been very patient to achieve that,” Makombe told Business Times.
Apparently, Chabikwa, who lost the position to Makombe two years ago, has been challenging the polls.
However, Makombe held on and seemed to be striking the right chord with the indigenous commercial farmers.
Asked to comment about the factions within ZCFU, which are threatening to tear away the union, Makombe said he was focused on the job at hand, that is, to serve the farmers. He said he wanted to see a better sector.
ZCFU is also a member of the Federation of Farmers Union (FoFU) whose predecessor was Joint Presidency Council. It is an initiative for all Zimbabwe Union presidents to lobby for farmers’ interests with one voice.
Makombe is the current chairperson of FoFU, whose registration for the Deed of Trust was done in 2016 to improve productivity and welfare of farmers.
Makombe told Business Times that his goals include facilitating, promoting and advancing the interests of farmers and the development of a healthy and economically viable agricultural industry.
He said to enhance this major goal, ZCFU was promoting the interests of and cooperation among its members in their farming ventures. It is also encouraging, promoting, supporting and providing constructive and specific measures for the promotion and development of farming enterprises.
Makombe said the union advises the government on the investigation, extension, testing and development of markets for both manufactured and raw agricultural products.
He said his union will explore and promote avenues for the marketing of members’ products as farmers face challenges when selling their products.
ZCFU is also facilitating the development of agricultural production by encouraging, assisting, conducting and supporting research, education and extension activities.
The union has moved to promote and encourage productive matters concerning relationships between farm workers and employers especially on remunerations, Makombe said.
Apart from that, ZCFU, act as arbitrators, when required, in matters concerning Union members and the agricultural industry in general.
“ZCFU helps farmers to associate, affiliate, subscribe to, amalgamate, cooperate, or exchange information with any organisations, associations or institutions in Zimbabwe and any country, whose objects are, in whole or in part, similar to those of the union which will assist in the furtherance of agriculture in general,” Makombe said.
The union subscribes to any funds or assist, or subsidise any institution whose objects, charitable or otherwise, are deemed likely to promote the interest of agriculture or to benefit the Union’s members.
ZCFU is collecting, canvassing for and accept donations, subscriptions, levies and endowments or any other benefits from any legal source whatsoever.
The election of Makombe came at a time when farmers were struggling to get funding from banks as they lack collateral.
Makombe said ZCFU helps farmers to borrow money from the banks with or without collateral, to create and issue debentures, to mortgage the immovable and movable property of ZCFU for any purpose or reasons that benefit the farmers.
The ZCFU is a registered farmers’ union, in terms of the Farmers Licencing and Levy Act, CAP 18:10.
The union was established by large scale indigenous commercial farmers who entered the business of commercial farming after independence.
Some of the founding members are Teererai Mugabe, Patrick Paradza, Rodger Boka, Thomas Nherera, Davison Mugabe, Zabron Mushore, and Thomas Chingwaro among others.
Initially, it was registered as the Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union in 1996.
But it was later changed to the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union. Its mandate is now to serve commercial farmers irrespective of the size of the farm.
To date seven presidents have been on the helm of the organisation. These are Thomas Nherera, Teererai Mugabe, Davison Mugabe, Wilson Nyabonda, Donald Khumalo, Wonder Chabikwa and Makombe.