AMH is an independent media house free from political ties or outside influence. We have four newspapers: The Zimbabwe Independent, a business weekly published every Friday, The Standard, a weekly published every Sunday, and Southern and NewsDay, our daily newspapers. Each has an online edition.

  • Marketing
  • Digital Marketing Manager: tmutambara@alphamedia.co.zw
  • Tel: (04) 771722/3
  • Online Advertising
  • Digital@alphamedia.co.zw
  • Web Development
  • jmanyenyere@alphamedia.co.zw

Designed to fail? A cotton story

The main issue coming out of a recent WhatsApp-based Cotton Indaba that we convened could best be described as the lamentations of the farmer.

LET me tell you the cotton story. On Tuesday, April 30, I received a call from a stranger. I am a fairly central actor among a network of agricultural practitioners and other stakeholders engaged in ongoing learning processes to discover solutions to the strategic renewal of Zimbabwe’s agricultural system.

“I am the hero of the NewsDay cotton story”.

That got my pulse racing.

“The villain, you mean?” I said.

He laughed.

Of late, I have taken a keen interest in cotton, specifically why the crop seems to be failing to live up to national expectations.

The main issue coming out of a recent WhatsApp-based Cotton Indaba that we convened could best be described as the lamentations of the farmer.

The primary producer seemed to be toiling for nothing. There were impassioned pleas by hardworking cotton farmers: ‘Please rescue cotton!’

But the unanswered questions were: ‘Rescue cotton from what? From who? how?’

Clearly, there are multiple failures of institutional arrangements in the story of cotton.

The primary issue has always been about how the cotton industry fails to pay the same cotton farmers a fair value for the delivered crop.  Everyone seems to be standing aloof as cotton farmers get the lean end.

Where does the government as regulator stand in all this? If the government was standing for the public interest, why does it allow such a situation to degenerate for so long?

How about farmers’ unions? What have they been doing about the situation?

From the contributions of ordinary farmers, it seems everyone has abandoned the ordinary peasant farmer in Gokwe, Ngundu, Muzarabani and Checheche.

As a scion of peasant stock myself, this situation has become very personal. There is something very wrong here. There is money in cotton. I have seen some figures suggesting enormous possibilities. But where is the money going?

I have been harping about that myself for ages.The problem of the cotton value chain is a problem of discipline.It is fairly obvious for anyone to see.

The solutions are known, but nobody seems willing to do something about it because apparently some of the key actors are seriously conflicted. We are still in the trenches.

The battle is to free cotton from enslavement.Specifically, (we need to) to give the farmer an opportunity to realise fair value from their crop.

As things stand, the opportunists have been winning for far too long.

Maybe with less of bad actors, it can be done.

  • Magwiroto is a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, Department of Community and Social Development, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Studies.


Related Topics