By Siya Ncube
Gokwe’s white gold hub status is currently under siege due to growing sentiments by residents from the area who are threatening to abandon growing the crop.
Cotton production in Gokwe dates back from the 1950s and 1960s under white minority rule.
Prosperity in cotton production is one of the reasons why some of the people migrated from areas such as Masvingo, Mvuma, into the area.
However, cotton producer prices have made it difficult for the farmers to sustain interest in its production.
Currently the price is pegged at USD$0.34 cents per kg.
“The current prices makes cotton farming a joke. We venture into farming to make money, but the current model makes it difficult for us to realise any profit”, said Chipo Hungwe a farmer in ward 4, under Chief Nenyunka.
“Our problems have been compounded by the fact that cotton companies such as Cottco are yet to pay us cotton delivered during 2019/2020 farming season, making it difficult for us to continue with the cotton project,” revealed Dambudzo Muzira, a farmer from Gokwe North.
Poor remuneration can be attributed to the fact that Cottco is the only buyer in the area. This monopoly has resulted in the government aligned company abusing its privilege.
A number of shopping centres such as Chitekete, Chiutsi developed from cotton proceeds in the 1990s. In addition Gokwe town is indebted to cotton production in the area.
However, farmers indicated that they are now abandoning ‘white gold’ for other crops such as maize, groundnuts and small grains.
Cotton is labour intensive. A lot of work is involved from growing, weeding as well as spraying insects.
“It’s not easy to carry a 15 litre spray at the back and in the process chemicals such as lampida, fenkill cause irritation on our skins and have life threatening effects”.
Majority of cotton farmers complained that pesticides which they use expose their lives to risks such as inhaling problems.
Due to poor remuneration. Parents struggle to pay school fees for their children.
However, some argue that the poor cotton prices have saved the community from cotton triggered suicides.
“In the past some men would spend money from cotton proceeds with their girlfriends whilst neglecting families who provided labour.
“A number of women took their lives due to such disputes. At least we now have peace in the area,” said one of the villagers.