Strict measures needed to deal with Covid-19
While we applaud government for opening vegetable markets to local farmers, this should be under very strict conditions, which include observing social distancing and hygiene.
Farmers, who would have lost agriculture produce, should have had a sigh of relief at government’s order that they supply the markets with perishables like tomatoes, potatoes, and cabbages, among others.
The farmers, however, should be responsible and desist from selling their produce to individuals as this will create chaos as people will not observe social distancing. The farmers are supposed to sell to supermarkets, who in-turn should sell to the public at stipulated times and within regulated parameters that confine to social distancing and sanitising.
Alternatively, farmers can redirect all their produce to supermarkets so as to minimise the confusion that this government order has created. Our vegetable markets have no handling capacity for individuals’ sales as they cannot sanitise their customers nor do they have the capacity to enforce social distancing. They also do not have provisions that can mark the floors with self-distancing boxes something councils should have done by now in preparation of this eventuality.
Municipalities that run these places should modernise the markets, evolve with times and construct modern structures. Residents should also respect the government order and stop visiting vegetable markets because what is happening on the ground since government opened the markets to farmers is the opposite as people throng these spaces.
Apart from residents, we also seem to have problems with vegetable vendors who are buying vegetables and reselling them in high density suburbs’ streets. The vendor like anybody else must be on lockdown if we want to contain coronavirus spread.
In these instances the municipalities and police should ensure that strict hygiene and Covid-19 prevention methods are followed at all times.
One thing that this lockdown has brought to the fore is need for government to promulgate devolution in which farmers can trade in their respective provinces other than focusing on delivering in the major cities only.
We also hope that there have been clear instructions to the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the municipal police so that they allow farmers to transport their produce without difficulties. We need to avoid incidents like that which happened in Mutare when the town’s health department destroyed farmers’ produce at the Sakubva vegetable market.
It is sad that during these hard and trying times, three tonnes of vegetables were confiscated from more than 300 farmers that had converged at the market to sell their produce. While Manicaland Covid-19 Taskforce chairperson Ellen Gwaradzimba has promised that all the affected farmers would be compensated by government for loss of income, most of them will take time to recover.