WHEN President Mugabe handed over a cheque of $500 000 to Chief Saunyama for youth empowerment under the Kurera Unkondla Youth Fund during the launch of the Marange-Zimunya Community Trust, critics were quick to dismiss the move as politicking.
Some were quick to say the money will end up being in the pockets of a chosen few, but youths in Nyanga have proved all prophets of doom wrong.
The money is a direct benefit of the indigenisation programme accruing to youths in partnership with Old Mutual through Cabs Building Society. The money will also support 100 projects with a potential to create about 500 jobs.
The youths in Nyanga District have embarked on an economic master plan aimed at value addition by commercialising local resources.
The district has been for decades lagging behind in terms of development despite abundant resources chief among them timber and horticultural produce.
Timber industry and potato farming in Nyanga has been rewarding, but not to locals, most of whom are wallowing in abject poverty, thereby exposing them to social ills like prostitution, robbery and drug abuse.
As part of embracing the empowerment crusade, youths in Nyanga recently formed the Youth Empowerment Trust 'as a fulfillment of Government's indigenisation and empowerment initiative' and playing a leading role in socio-economic activities in the district.
Monday saw the Trust, led by Chief Victor Saunyama, distributing agricultural inputs to farmers in the district to pursue their booming potato farming.
More than 50 youths received 44 tonnes of Compound S, 22,8 tonnes of top dressing, 77,4 of potato seed and two tones of chemicals.
Earlier on, small-scale farmers in areas like Nyakupinga, Brittania and Troutbeck received $5 000, while youths in Nyamaropa received $3 000 to pursue their farming activities.
Chief Saunyama, however, urged farmers to look beyond just farming, but be innovative and create employment opportunities and other economic breakthroughs. He said it was high time farmers, particularly youths work on self-sustaining projects and also concentrate on other benefits farming could bring.
"Agriculture is playing a commendable role in minimising social ills in our society. We as youths embrace Government's youth and indigenisation policies and here in Nyanga we have an obligation to develop our district through potato farming.
"We should as well be innovative enough to embrace the benefits which come with it (farming) like venturing into potato chips business. This creates more employment opportunities as well as self-independence.
"Minister Joseph Made once challenged us to work hard and be a hub of potato farming in the country and we should work towards achieving that goal. Youths will definitely make great strides in the farming sector. We applaud the parental guidance of stakeholders who have been helping us in sourcing marketing opportunities for our products," said Chief Saunyama.
The Trust comprises of the vice chairperson, Walter Mutasa, secretary, Rangu Nyamurundira, Cuebone Masunungure and treasurer, Pikani Fumanda.
Nyanga District Administrator, Mr John Samson Makoni, said it was saddening to note that potatoes were being shipped out of the district in their raw form.
"We grow potatoes, yes, but have we benefited from them yet? We are just getting a few dollars from them. We hail Government's poverty alleviation efforts by giving us agricultural inputs, but we should complement its efforts by working hard and be able to work for ourselves and feed our families and commercialise the resources locally.
"Sawmills are scattered around, but people from outside the district are benefiting from the timber. Youths need jobs and focusing on potatoes, nothing can stop us from constructing potato-processing units here in Nyanga and make viable business by making potato chips."
Among a plethora of challenges, farmers in Nyanga said they were experiencing a deficiency of market strategies as they were forced to sell their potatoes at the actual market price.
Said Mrs Anne Bureki, a 32-year-old small-scale potato farmer at Plot Number 6A in Troutbeck, Pulpwood: "We would like to thank Government for giving us the inputs.
We hope to take potato farming to a higher level and implement ways we can do to extensively benefit from them.
We have always been struggling to sell our potatoes at market value. We always see people from outside the district coming to buy our potatoes at a price, which would be lower than we should get.
“Most of us would be desperate to get quick money. We wish if we could get constant and ready market supply where we sell our products at large."