Most people thought that cotton farmers will stop growing cotton given the disappointing market results this in the past years.

For the past years cotton prize was traditionally equivalent to a 1kg of sugar per kg of cotton.

However, it was not enough given the cost prize of production, inputs, processing and outputs including labour.

Marketing Monopoly by CMB.

Things began to change for better beginning late 1990s with the coming in of Cargill Cotton as a competitor and CMB privatizing to Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (COTTCO).

Since then cotton farmers began to see the grading process of their cotton, weighing and payment done concurrently without a waiting period under the Cargill Cotton Moto ‘Ipapo Ipapo’.

This replaced a traditional way of centralised markets, weighing and grading done in the absence of the farmer who could wait for two weeks before receiving his/her weights, then another month or so waiting for the cheque and a process to the bank to convert the cheque into cash.

In order to retain its farmers, COTTCO collaborated with Cotton Research Centre in Kadoma and gave Certificates to Farmers only to please them.

Second, COTTCO gave a Gold Class Status to major cotton farmers and in collaboration with Quitton these farmers began to grow cotton seed (foundation) whose market was solely COTTCO.

Most farmers who abandoned COTTCO for Cargill Cotton bought tractors, grinding mills or built lucrative homes in the rural with others building houses in the Gokwe Centre Residential Areas especially Mapfungautsi and Sasame.

The most lucrative year for cotton production in Gokwe was 2011 with the coming in of various players; Monzoni, Ollam, Taraffern, Dynamics, Graffax, Sino-Zim, Alliance and Cottpro to name but just a few.

It was at peek to the effect that a kg of cotton was bought at $1, by standard it was an equivalent of USD 1.

The same year saw young generational cotton farmers buying cars, commuter buses, grinding mills or venturing into hardware or general dealer business in all the Gokwe Growth Points.

Realising the loss of cotton Farmers to competitor farmers, COTTCO advocated for the AMA (Agricultural Marketing Authority).

AMA was established to force all cotton farmers to buy cotton produce from cotton farmers under one umbrella market.

One of the most striking rules was that a company that did not sell inputs to the farmers had no right to buy cotton produce. 

The implication was that only COTTCO and Cargill Cotton were left in the game since they were the only traditional companies that gave inputs to the farmers.

Other players would just come to milk without giving to farmers, hence, they had little losses and gave a lucrative prize to farmers forcing all the farmers to sell their crops to the intruders.

Worse more with the sanctions and economic hardships of the second decade of the 21st Century, most cotton marketing companies including Cargill Cotton began to pull out.

The cotton production since then began to fall and most companies pulled out at an equivalent rate with big farmers abandoning cotton production.

It appeared as if by 2020 farmers in Gokwe will have abandoned the cotton production.

However, ten years now a satiable number of farmers still grow cotton as a major crop and have confidence in it.

Various factors have contributed to the dominance of cotton as a staple crop in Gokwe.

Free inputs

Most farmers are attracted by free inputs scheme.

In the past years inputs were very expensive and being a farmer’s greatest loss. COTTCO is giving free inputs (seeds, herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers) to the farmers as a means to motivate them to grow cotton.

Free Tractor Cultivation

COTTCO again is cultivating free by tractor a hectare for each farmer who delivers a given amount of bales to the company.

Most farmers who want their pieces of land cultivated by tractor are forced to grow cotton.

Failure to find a replacement

In the past years farmers tried alternatives to Cotton but all failed especially due to lack of market especially Runinga.

They tried soya beans but its production process proved a challenge due to unreliable rainfall and later it faced a marketing challenge.

Maize have been grown juxtaposing cotton and since most farmers abandoned the later for it, it flooded the market and is no longer lucrative. Worse more it is being attacked by worms and its control measure is a bit challenge. The maize seed is very expensive forcing farmers to grow and circulate farm produce whose yield is dissatisfying.

Consequently, cotton have failed to get a replacement and remains the White Gold for the Gokwe Community.

The Grocery Factor

Began as early as 2010 by Graffax Cotton who gave soap and cooking oil made from cotton produce to its farmers.

The system was not well established in the past only to surge in 2020.

Companies are not giving money to farmers since the closure of the agent lines.

Rather farmers are given a list of groceries ranging from sugar, cooking oil, salt and flour.

This move was welcomed by most women whose husbands squandered money in the past years in night clubs and with women from Harare, Masvingo, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Kwekwe and Kadoma among other areas who come during cotton time to fantasize and rob the sexually loose men.

Every year men lose money through hookups and prostitutes who surface during the cotton season.

Worse more, musicians such as Nicholas Zakaria (Madzibaba), Alleck Macheso, Somandla Ndebele, Peter Moyo Dhewa, the Dendera Musicians, Taruvinga Manjokoto (Sugar Sugar) and Taso among others come one after the other to syphone the returns from the white-gold.

The effect of the above is captured in a song Mari yeCotton by Taso who describes a man in the night club who instructs the barman and the prostitute Rose to keep the change and the following day he starts demanding the money in fear of the wife and children who worked the whole season.

Apart from that, there are reports of women every season who commit suicide because the husband squandered all the money.

There are reports of women reporting their husbands for squandering money and forgetting their families back home.

So the issue of groceries came as a relief to most women. They are happy this year. Celebrating the groceries one Gokwe woman said, “Gore rino ndorima donje nokuti vamwe vaja” (this year I will grow cotton as well because others have eaten groceries).

Farmers did not benefit groceries alone but even building material. Most farmers were forced to modernise their homes because they are forced to take building material for their cotton produce. So such farmers are happy and will keep growing cotton for they have many alternatives that is; groceries, building material, scotch carts, ploughs, grinding mills and harrow among other material and property.

Thus, cotton will not cease to be a white-gold for Gokwe.

Lack of representation

Most cotton farmers are the poor people who does not have power to fight exploitation and slavery by cotton companies. They don’t have capacity to form representative bodies such as those of Tobacco farmers. Their representatives are the Honourable Legislatures who are benefiting from the system. One such legislature is Leonard Shoko (a.k.a Chikomba) who are business man and they are the ones on grocery and material contracts. So there is no means by which they can bite the hand that feeds them.

So cotton will remain a major crop grown in Gokwe despite the challenges and slavery faced by farmers for the past 40 years.

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