The cost and role of transport in smallholder horticultural production: experiences from the Mashonaland East fruit and vegetable project
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Smallholder horticultural production was important even prior to Zimbabwe’s Independence and plays a significant role in the supply of fruit and vegetables to the major urban areas and mining settlements. The EC sponsored Fruit and Vegetable Project in Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe, implemented by ARDA since 1987 has adopted the provision of reliable and affordable transport of horticultural produce as an intervention strategy to improve smallholder horticultural production and marketing. This study is focused mainly on the Mashonaland East Fruit and Vegetable Programme since this is one of the largest government funded smallholder horticultural development projects. Although the smallholder horticultural producer is currently faced by several constraints with profound effects on both production and marketing of produce, the provision of a reliable and affordable transportation system for these farmers has led to a major improvement on both production, as evidenced by volume of produce delivered to the markets, and net returns to the farmers which have increased by as much as 30%. The authors hope the findings of this study will form part of the overall effort by government and private initiatives towards horticultural development for both domestic and export markets. The provision of a reliable and relatively efficient transport system has a synergic effect on economic development by stimulating production and creation of employment in the agribusiness sector of Zimbabwe.