Winning the Cotton grower of the year award at the just ended Zimbabwe Agricultural Show has opened doors that Mr Robert Mandhlanzi never knew existed.
His prize: a brand new tractor from the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe!
Mr Mandhlanzi’s story is one of hard work, perseverance and the sheer will to learn new things.
He grew the white gold on a 1,2 hectare plot at his homestead in Chinyamkwakwa village, Chipinge, and produced an amazing 36 bales of top quality cotton that won him the coveted prize, thanks to Cyclone Idai rains, which became a blessing in disguise.
His plot was one of many demonstration plots that Cottco has established in the area to teach farmers on how to grow cotton sustainably.
Besides the demo plot, he grew an additional 0,6 hectares of cotton which produced 10 bales, bringing his yield to 46 bales on less than two hectares.
Speaking to The Manica Post at his homestead, an elated Mr Mandhlanzi said in the past, he used to grow his cotton without fertilisers but this year he had applied both compound D and top dressing fertilisers as he was taught by extension officers.
“This year I used fertilisers and chemicals properly as I was taught by extension officers and this is one of the reasons I got such a huge harvest. In previous years, we would just grow cotton without fertiliser because we feared that we might damage our soil,” he said.
Because he grew his crop on a small piece of land, he did not have to pay workers to help him work the field. He did it all with his wife and six children.
“Because I used herbicides before planting, we did not have any problems with weeds until the crop reached 40cm height. After that, my family and I got in to do the work. I only sought workers to assist with harvesting,” he said.
Manicaland province was hit by drought last season which was exacerbated by cyclone Idai induced floods which destroyed the majority of the crops that had survived.
However, for cotton farmers in Chipinge, the cyclone rains were a blessing in disguise. They fed the much needed moisture to the ailing crop and gave others a chance to replant.
Mr Mandhlanzi was no exception, even though his crop had already been doing well with the little moisture he could get to it.
“This year I planted my cotton early so all the rain that came after that served to make my cotton grow. By the time the rains disappeared, my cotton was at a better stage than others”. However, at one point, my crop did face moisture stress but then cyclone Idai rains came and my crop was rejuvenated. In as much as the cyclone caused massive destruction in other areas, the rains that we received were not violent and they really did more good than bad,” he said.
Mr Mandhlanzi is a beneficiary of the Presidential Input Scheme and received seed, fertilisers and chemicals for his crop from Cottco.