Hopewell Chin’ono: Rural Airports and Mega Deals are not cutting it…. talk to electorate as equals not kids

By Hopewell Chin’ono

I spent a day at the village in Murewa talking to relatives and anaSahwira (family friends) trying to figure out their thoughts on election choices and what they consider to be important and immediate to their lives.

Angolan Ambassador Pedro Hendrick Vaal Neto with his aide looking at the goats at Hopewell Chin’ono’s Boer goat breeding project in Murewa
Angolan Ambassador Pedro Hendrick Vaal Neto with his aide looking at the goats at Hopewell Chin’ono’s Boer goat breeding project in Murewa

Rural Airports and Mega Deals are not cutting it, they feel that it is stuff out of the movies!
Politicians from both the ruling party and the opposition must engage with the electorate and talk to them as equals not kids.

I have read about Command Agriculture and its accessories and I feel that at times these noble programs are not thought out properly. They are presented as populist platforms.

I run a Boer goat breeding operation so I am going to talk about what I really know and understand.
One of the most effective ways of empowering the rural folk is to upgrade their various goat breeds.

Every homestead at the village has goats which in terms of financial stress are the go to products for sale.

A Boer goat like the one in the video below weighs 120kilograms live weight.
The local Mashona goats weigh an average of 20 kilograms.

When you cross a Mashona female goat and a Boer male, the product born out of the crossbreeding exercise will weigh around 60 kilograms. So there is a weight gain of 40 kilograms.

If you cross the “crossbreed” goat and a Boer male, you will end up with a goat weighing 80 kilograms.
If the government and the opposition really want to empower the rural folk, they could invest in one male goat for every Ward across the country.

A male goat can service 50 female goats inside 15 days so the process of uplifting the breeds is not as complicated as Mega Deals and building Rural Airports.

So the national breed will be enhanced in terms of quality and the numbers will be increased too.

Goat meat is sold at $3 per kilogram at wholesale point so it means that these rural folk can earn $180 from selling a crossbreed to butcheries as opposed to $60 if they had killed a Mashona goat.

Forget about the live weight and dressing weight issues, this is to make you understand the argument.

This is very simple and this is the language that rural folk understand not Mega Deals and Bullet Trains.

Our political elites should start talking the language that our people understand and can engage with and carry through well thought out programs based on evidence based operations like the one I run in Murewa.

I sell my male Boer goats for $500 each when they are 6 months old and at $1000 each when they are 18 months old.

The government of the day can start a program and import the breeding stock from South Africa where I bought my initial breeding stock at $200 per female goat and $500 each for the male goats which were 20 months old.

The cost of Boer goats in Zimbabwe is very high because of the laws of supply and demand.
As we speak, I am holding Money paid for goats that will be born next year.

That is how bad the shortage is and with a proper government program, the rural folk can join in and cut part of the cake too and enhance their lives.

Big commercial famers drive to Chin’ono village to buy these Boer goats for their large-scale farms.

If I had a big property, a farm, I could have expanded but at the moment I am only doing it at my ancestral home. So these are some of the reasons why I disagree with utopian ideas being floated around during the election cycle.

Let us keep it simple and focus on things that can be delivered. 
We know that there won’t be tens of billions coming into Zimbabwe in the next two years and there won’t be bullet trains in decades.

So why not engage our people on their immediate needs and promise things that can be delivered?

Tell us when a proper land audit will be done and how those with resources can access farmland on a non partisan basis.

There are many Zimbabweans who have access to credit lines outside the country, there are many of us with money sitting in the bank.

We do not need government guaranteed loans, we don’t need bank loans, we have the financing resources.

All we need is for the government of the day to distribute land fairly without favor. These are the discussions that we should be having and this is what party political manifestos should be accentuating.

The Angolan Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Pedro Hendrick Vaal Neto came to my village to look at my project and talk about the possibility of exporting to Angola.

It broke my heart when he said that he hoped that my government would give me access land to expand my project. How do I explain to him why such a productive project can not get access to land so that it can expand, employ more people, generate foreign exchange for the country.

We could export these goats and earn foreign exchange easily but alas, we are not able to do so because political leadership has NO vision. So there is a lot we can do without waiting for Mega Deals and Bullet Trains that wont be with us any time soon!

*Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning international Zimbabwean Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.

He has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind that is coming out in June. It will be launched in Harare and Johannesburg by Graca Machel.
Hopewell can be contacted at [email protected] or on twitter @daddyhope

State of Mind Trailer