Casual farm labourers feel pinch as drought, economic meltdown take toll

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

Marondera: Thousands of casual farm labourers are going through a rough patch as casual labour opportunities diminish due to the prevailing drought and the economic challenges facing the country.

During this period of the year, poor households in rural and farming communities earn incomes through informal activities such as land preparation for the coming farming season, brick moulding, cutting and selling of thatching grass and firewood to their better-off neighbours.

However, this season, the better-off neighbours have also been affected by the drought and economic decline and cannot afford to hire extra hands.

“I used to get plenty of casual jobs during this season, even going on to turn some down because of low wage offers. But this season has been harsh for me and my colleagues as most of us have not had any work since the end of harvesting,” said one Edmund Murandu from Masomera in Marondera Rural.

He said during this period, he was engaged in various projects in Masomera and surrounding areas, digging water wells, brick moulding and helping farmers prepare their land.

“I used to travel as far as Wedza and Rusape. But this year, the opportunities are not there, and I have totally nothing to support my family with; they are suffering.

“I have approached my former employers, but they are also not prepared to offer me jobs as they also have no money to pay me or even cash to buy agricultural inputs for the next season.

“So, everyone here is suffering as our opportunities are very limited and dwindling,” he said.

Across Zimbabwe, food insecurity is growing with an estimated 3.6 million rural Zimbabweans in need of humanitarian assistance from the 2.3 million estimated between June and September this year.

The figure is expected to rise to 5.5 million in January 2020.

Zimbabwe’s precarious economic conditions are contributing to low food availability, rising food prices and very high inflation that is reducing purchasing power.