Mozambique

Cahora & Tete

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The challenge of farming in Tete

The challenge of farming in Tete

An excellent onion crop successfully cultivated close to the Zambezi River
An excellent onion crop successfully cultivated close to the Zambezi River
Priscilla Fumo Lear

Growing vegetables in Tete is an adventurous undertaking. Soaring summer temperatures reaching 45oC make summer growing near impossible and juggling summer and winter crops during the winter growing season will set any farmer on a steep learning curve.

 

A sense of adventure is exactly what prompted Jeremy Baker to go for a motorbike ride along the river one warm afternoon in 2009. He was intrigued when he came upon two 8m x 8m ruins set back from the bank. A year later he had bought the land and started work on his own home, incorporating these ruins as a focal point.

 

Today, this land forms the basis of the farm Villa Veg, growing vegetables and herbs. At the moment the produce is offered to the mines and some local supermarkets, as well as on a ‘box scheme’– a carton of mixed vegetables with the contents varying according to what is growing at the time. The produce is hand-picked in the morning and delivered to a central point for collection by customers the same afternoon.

 

This bi-weekly box is filled to the brim with previously hard-to-find or expensive imported delights such as brinjals, baby marrows, red and green peppers and sweet potatoes, and herbs such as rocket, pakchoi, basil, parsley, coriander and watercress. Staples like butternut, cabbage, garlic and onions are also included and of course, freshly picked red chillies for the brave.

 

The farm is adjacent to a local village and many people from the village now have employment on the farm. Any produce not sold to Tete residents is distributed amongst the villagers. There are no fences around the farm, but Jeremy has experienced no pilfering of his crops. Since Jeremy’s own home is on the outskirts of the village, he says he feels part of the community. Proceeds from Villa Veg sales have also been used to build an assembly hall for the village elders, who previously had to hold their meetings outside, subject to the mercy of the elements.

 

Farming in Tete is limited to the autumn and winter seasons. From October until April the heat, rain and humidity make vegetable growing impractical, due to soaring temperatures and plentiful pests and diseases. The solution is growing summer crops in the winter season and covering a lot of the produce with Cropguard – a protection that keeps the bugs out but lets the light in. Villa Veg has another farm in the Catandica area which, with its higher altitude and milder temperatures,can supply produce during the hot months.

 Baker has always loved growing things, so he also has a nursery on the farm. The plants grown are used in the landscaping service that he offers to Tete companies wishing to have their greens on the outside too.

More from this issue:

Zambezi Traveller (September 2014)