Retired maths teacher scores big with Intwasa

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter

A RETIRED mathematics teacher has embraced the Intwasa/Pfumvudza climate proofed farming method which has seen him produce excess grain that he sells to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to feed the nation.

Mr Matema Masendeke (70), a former teacher at Empandeni High School in Mangwe District, Matabeleland South province has become a champion farmer in Empandeni West village in the same district after adopting the Intwasa farming method during the 2020/21 summer cropping season.

He said the programme has cushioned him from being reliant on the Government, which has started distributing grain to food insecure households.

At least 3,8 million people are expected to receive food aid at the peak of the drought season by March next year.

Mr Masendeke described Pfumvudza/Intwasa as a masterstroke which can take a lot of households out of poverty if well adopted.

He said prior to embarking on the climate proofed farming method, he used to hire a tractor which was costly for a subsistence farmer. 

“This is my third year into the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme. I was actually advised by my daughter who works for Agritex to join it. I used to hire a tractor and hiring is quite expensive and the costs are quite prohibitive. There is also a serious contrast between Pfumvudza/Intwasa and tractor farming. Intwasa is much, much better,” he said.

“Even the accountability of the seed and fertiliser with Pfumvudza/Intwasa is easier because when I plant, I expect the seed to germinate and when it doesn’t, I go and check. But when using a tractor, you blindly plant and apply fertiliser even where there is no seed.”

Mr Masendeke retired from teaching in 2018 and says he enjoys his time as a pensioner through his passion for farming.

He said he gets satisfaction from farming as he is also able to feed the nation.

“As a farmer I have been able to crop enough for my family and sell the excess to the GMB. I have also been able to feed my chickens as I run a poultry project while also working on a livestock project,” he said.

 “As a farmer, you might even do better than someone who is gainfully employed. Because those who are employed still have to go to the shops and the shops are not very friendly.”

Mr Masendeke said it is important for Pfumvudza/intwasa inputs beneficiaries to sell to the GMB as they would have received free inputs from the State.

Government is targeting to provide 3,5 million households countrywide with farming inputs during the 2022/23 farming season under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme as it moves to ensure food security in the country.

Mr Masendeke said despite the low rains that were recorded in the past farming season, he was able to produce in excess, transforming him into a champion farmer in Mangwe.

Mr Matema Masendeke

A champion farmer is someone who has extensive experience in farming and has mastered the knowledge and skills that he shares with other farmers.

“Last year I harvested 3,5 tonnes which is equivalent to 75 bags, I sold 20 bags to GMB and I sold part of it to the locals and I have been able to feed myself while also turning part of it into stockfeed. Actually, selling to GMB is a way of ploughing back to the Government which provides inputs. That crop benefits those who are in need,” said Mr Masendeke.

He encouraged communal farmers to take Pfumvudza/Intwasa seriously as there is evidence of good yields.

Mr Masendeke said while the Pfumvudza/Intwasa method is demanding, it has an almost guaranteed yield.

“You have to utilise the Presidential Inputs, you plant on time, you apply fertiliser on time, you weed on time then you will be able to survive from it and get a better yield,” said Mr Masendeke.

He said the programme requires that farmers properly manage their time instead of just rushing to the fields when rains start.

Mr Masendeke said he started digging Pfumvudza/Intwasa holes in July and expects to complete the process by the end of this week.

“I have 12 full plots of Pfumvudza/Intwasa; two half plots so in total I have 14 plots. I started digging those plots two months ago but I expect to have completed them by the end of next (this) week. Around here there are many people who have adopted Pfumvudza/Intwasa farming method although some of them are still dragging their feet. Digging is hectic, it’s not easy you have to be early in the morning in the field to dig, by sunrise you come home and rest,” said Mr Masendeke.

He said he goes to the field at 5AM and by 6:30AM he will be back home.

He said he can trace his passion for agriculture to his father who was an avid farmer.

Mr Masendeke said during his time at Empandeni High School, he was involved in the school’s agriculture projects and as a result they grew enough maize which could last them for a term.

He said traditional grains such as millet, sorghum are important as they are drought resistant and complement maize.

“We also understand that these traditional foods are healthier especially for people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes,” he said.

Mr Masendeke commended Government for deploying agriculture extension officers to village level saying they are key in advising farmers on planting.

“They advise us when to start planting and how to apply fertiliser. They are the people who introduced us to intwasa and in my experience I realised that I wasted time hiring tractors. Yes, on virgin land you can start with a tractor. I’m saving a lot, previously I used to hire a tractor which charged US$70 to till just an acre and from there I would get in the region of 35 bags now I’m getting 90 bags when the rains are good. So, the tractor is not something which you can use,” said Mr Masendeke.

He also said the disadvantage of using a tractor is that sometimes it will be servicing many farmers and delays in planting can be catastrophic for any farmer.–@nqotshili

Article Source: The Chronicle

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