MANICALAND is the eastern province of Zimbabwe whose economy is principally hinged on agro-forestry and mineral extraction. The province has immense potential for diamond and gold mining, timber, tea, coffee and macadamia nuts and fruit production. This province would be, by far, richer and better developed than it is if it had been allowed to administer and account for its resources and wealth. As things stand, it remains one of the country’s most underdeveloped provinces.
Many have as a result lamented the fact that Manicaland has never benefited from diamonds mined from Chiadzwa and Chimanimani. Though the country may have benefited through the recapitalisation of different sectors of the economy, but as the custodian of the mineral, Manicaland has nothing tangible to show for it.
The roads, schools and hospitals in Manicaland are in a bad state. Sadly diamonds mined from Chiadzwa and Chimanimani are probably transported to Harare through those bad roads. No effort has been made to at least have them repaired. As such, we take seriously and agree totally with the new dispensation, as explained by Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, last week that Government will take corrective action through the delegation of administrative power to the provincial councils. It was revealed that Government, under its comprehensive devolution master plan, will accede to Manicaland diamond beneficiation status, alongside, timber industry and fruits. .
“This devolution, which will give responsibilities to all our provinces and metropolitan authorities, is a constitutional obligation. Manicaland – this is where we first found our diamonds, and they will be given the diamond beneficiation responsibility, the timber industry and everything to do with forestry will be in Manicaland as well as fruits. The Eastern Highlands are best for growing fruits. So each and every province will do what best they know and contribute to the national GDP,” he said.
Manicaland has always been for devolution following misgivings that most of its achievements were getting extinct due to the continuous trek of its wealth out of the province to even beyond our borders..
It is only through devolution that existing anomalies, where diamond mining companies in Marange and Chimanimani that are headquartered in Harare, will have their head offices in the provincial capital of Mutare. It is in the same vein that the diamond cutting training industry can find its way to Mutare.
Good times are set to roll for Manicaland.
Manicaland is characterised by rainfall of more than 1000 mm per year, low temperatures, high altitude, steep slopes, good soils and consistent water supply which are all ideal for coffee and tea, deciduous fruits, horticulture and timber production. These have huge potential to generate the much needed foreign currency for the province and country at large.
With proper planning and monitoring, the province will certainly undergo positive economic transformation by virtue of being the hub of on-demand banana, peach, grapefruit, lemon, nartjies, nectarines, orange, mango, avocado pear and apple production.
Manicaland has immense potential to produce apples and potatoes in Nyanga; peas and other vegetables as well as flowers such as proteas, roses, asters and chrysanthemums in Mutare, Makoni and Mutasa for export to Europe and the United State. Demand for fruits will always be high given their high nutritional content that plays a pivotal role in improving people’s health conditions. The province’s other trump card is high quality mild coffee and macadamia nuts produced in Chipinge, which commands deep, well drained rich soils and good microclimate. Macadamia is a high value crop which was previously a preserve of white farmers, but of late identified as a low-hanging fruit by a significant number of indigenous farmers.
The crop can be more profitable if processed and currently, there are no processors and is being exported nuts-in-shell after drying. This creates an opportunity for investing in macadamias processing factories.
It is sad that Zimbabwe is currently importing fruits like apples, pears, plum, peach apricots, nectarine and grape from South Africa when Manicaland can produce surplus for export. This highly technical and labour intensive enterprise requires infrastructure like greenhouses, cold rooms and working capital, which many cannot afford as our agriculture industry requires massive investment in infrastructure and support from banks.
Access to finance has been the biggest bottle-neck in the sector mainly because of the absence of a land market which prevents financial institutions from granting loans to farmers because there is little or no collateral to support loans. Tea and timber companies, which had relocated their offices to Harare, should trace their footprints back to Mutare. They should be hands-on and help resurrect the province that had indeed fallen from grace. This will help restore viability of the timber industry, which had been grossly compromised through disruptions by settlers doing illegal farming and mining activities and lack of working capital and boost job creation and development in Manicaland.