For a long time, the economy was developed with the aid of cash crop cotton. A European Union-funded programme has now enabled several thousands of small-scale farmers to successfully shift from cotton growing to horticulture and to be linked to the urban markets. “Smallholders can supply the quality in demand. All they need is information on which crops to produce and in what quality,” Mushongachiware believes.  

Challenges and opportunities of smallholder farmers

Of course numerous other obstacles have to be overcome in addition to the information deficit if such success stories are to be scaled up. They include delay in payments by buyers, poor farmer organisation and low bargaining power vis-à-vis big companies on the farmers’ side; high transaction costs, traceability questions and unwillingness to invest in and capacitate farmers on the private sector side; and poor infrastructure and transport to support storage of perishable fresh produce, the specialisation of formal agricultural extension institutions in traditional crops, low financial literacy and the competition from big suppliers who enjoy economies of scale as cross-cutting issues.