Growing pains: Zimbabwe’s female tobacco farmers struggle to compete



Nyasha Chingono | The Guardian

Moreen Tanhara waits patiently for officials to inspect her tobacco. The 49-year-old has travelled nearly 100 miles (150km) overnight in an old lorry to reach Tobacco Sales Floor, an auction house in Harare. Tanhara sits quietly on one of the fragrant sacks she has brought from Guruve, a farming area north of Zimbabwe’s capital, while on the auction floor workers prepare tobacco leaves for the first sales of the season.

The auction house attracts farmers from across the country but this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, only a few are allowed on the auction floor. Dozens more wait outside, among them Chinese tobacco dealers, the country’s main buyers.

Every year Tanhara, a widowed mother of four, comes here to sell her crop. If prices are low, she leaves disappointed but this year she is hopeful after a good rainy season. Her tobacco is given a high grade and opening prices are strong – $4.30 (£3.10) a kilo.

If she turns a healthy profit, it will be thanks in part to a stokvel she and other women set up in 2020, to help them raise money and improve their farming techniques.

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