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17 dairy farms in Matabeleland shut down

by Staff Reporter
22 Dec 2013 at 04:09hrs | Views

A total of about 17 out of 50 dairy farms in Matabeleland reportedly closed since year 2000 due to viability challenges that have also claimed the once famous Esidakeni Farm in Nyamandlovu that at one time had 500 dairy cattle, the Sunday News reported.

A senior official at the Dairy Services of Zimbabwe, Matabeleland regional offices, noted that Esidakeni farm was part of a number of dairy farms in the region that had been forced to shut down as a result of a number of problems, chief among them being viability and the unlawful sale of cows and equipment.

"There are a number of dairy farms that closed in the region since 2000 because you will discover that out of a figure of 50, 33 are still operational today. The reasons for their closure vary but the main ones are viability problems, selling of cows and equipment or the owners dying.

"Some of the dairy farms that have closed over the years include Esidakeni in Nyamandlovu, Norton in Figtree, High Acre in Esigodini and Goremucheche in Umguza," said the official.

Once regarded as the face of the success of agrarian reform and an example of a black farmer succeeding in the previously white domain of dairy farming, the 1 000-hectare Esidakeni Estate located in the rich Nyamandlovu farming area is now an eyesore.

At its peak, the farm had 500 dairy cows, 300 workers and was one of Dairibord Zimbabwe's top milk suppliers.
The farm, which is owned by Mr Eddie Warambwa, a beneficiary of the land refom programme, saw him being voted Dairy Farmer of the year in 2001 as well as the Commercial Farmer of the year in 2004. Mr Warambwa also became the Dairy Farmers Association vice-chairperson.

Not only was this farm famous for its dairy production but it was also famed for growing maize, wheat, vegetables, barley and paprika all under irrigation because of the farm's location ' it sits on the Nyamandlovu Aquifer.

The farm was constantly used as a reference to the success of the land reform, with President Mugabe and the then Matabeleland North Governor, Dr Obert Mpofu, touring it during field days and urging farmers to emulate Mr Warambwa's exploits.

However, a visit to the farm today reveals that its current state is a pale shadow of its former glory; the whole farm has been reduced to a desolate patch with abandoned equipment and no dairy cows to talk about.

When a Sunday News crew visited Esidakeni last week, there were hardly any workers in sight, with the crew spending close to 10 minutes hooting outside the farm gate, after noting the warning sign: "Private property, Trespassers will be prosecuted", written in bright red letters at the entrance.

Upon letting themselves in, the crew was met with a sight that resembled a graveyard, the large feedlot is run down and clearly showed that it was last used years ago, the milking and dairy machines were rusty and falling, the tilling area was as clear as a soccer field and  there was no sense of life at all.

The only feature that shows that this was once a farm are four cows, which are enclosed in a small fenced paddock, with no minder in sight. The red-roofed farm house is also abandoned - doors locked and smashed window panes with a foul smell wafting through them.

Sunday News managed to trace a number of workers at the farm's compound who claimed they regarded themselves as former workers as besides having nothing to do, their employer Mr Warambwa had abandoned the farm, claiming he was looking for money to revive it.

They said all they wanted was to go back to their rural areas as things were worsening by the day at the farm.

Source - Sunday News