MUTARE- City fathers, vegetable vendors and rural farmers are enjoying a new lease of life following the decentralisation of the agricultural produce market.
Council introduced decentralised markets in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, a move hailed as affording dignified working spaces for informal traders and linking rural farmers.
Development partners United Nations Development Program (UNDP) sourced funding from the Russian Embassy to support construction of two produce markets, 12 local government area markets, with a combined capacity to house 400 vendors.
Itai Kariparire, president of Mutare Informal Traders Association (MITA) , said development assistance partners have improved working conditions for informal markets.
Kariparire was speaking during a United Nations Development Program UNDP, Russian Embassy joint monitoring visit of market sites in Mutare.
He also acknowledged the role of the council in facilitating the construction of the modern vending sites for vegetable vendors.
“Our gratitude goes to development partners CARE, UNDP and Russian Embassy, which have chipped in and Russia even for the historical assistance from the liberation struggle which speaks of mutually beneficial relationships.
“Decentralised markets afford us dignified working spaces as informal traders as we try to mainstream gender issues within our markets, as well as ensuring protection of the vulnerable.
“We are glad now that market disbursement is pro poor assisting the vulnerable, in respect of the human rights of the beneficiaries,” said Kariparire.
UNDP resident representative, Mia Seppo said support for the urban resilience initiatives extended a global conversation on sustainable livelihoods.
She said by supporting local markets the project aimed at facilitating digitisation of systems, enhanced waste management, skills transfer programs and capacity building for young people.
“Safety for women, gender PWDs are important, so are the lessons learnt in ensuring government local and key partners can work together, as at the end of this year the program ends.
“Lessons learnt in this program are important and inform future interventions,” she said.
Seppo said global conversation at the World Summit on food, points to the need to focus on the nexus between urban and rural populations.
“The project has made us glean lessons for the larger international community and joint efforts to make our cities habitable.
“Covid 19 inspired a project to champion health awareness, economic resilience and what was started by health concern is turning out to be more sustainable and we hope it extends beyond the pandemic,” she said.
Russian envoy, Dimitri Grinchuk, said they were proud to be a partner in the program noting remarkable progress through infrastructure development for livelihoods and economic development.
“Boosting of trade relations in agriculture is a game changer for beneficiaries of the program, in particular those from the rural market. This program, when concluded, will provide sustainable economic livelihoods for local communities,” said Grinchuk.
Ministry of Local Government and Public Works deputy director local authorities, Fungai Mbetsa said urban resilience programs are nurtured by a network of partnerships.
He urged councils to leverage on the program by linking rural and urban communities to facilitate commodity trade between primary producers and consumers.
“We are now introducing green solutions to put urban systems, waste management can be improved through development of such networks and partnerships.
“We expect the City of Mutare to actively support the program and facilitate such development interventions that have been proffered to our communities,” he said.
Acting Town Clerk, Blessing Chafesuka said there was a need to ensure maintenance and sustainability of the markets as well as environmental protection.
“Our focus is not only affording decent works sites for informal traders but ensuring sustainability by maintaining the sites and preserving their state.
“As a result we are ring fencing revenue from the markets to plough back and increase the capacity of the markets constructed by our development partners,” said Chafesuka.
Mayor Blessing Tandi said vendors have warmed to the idea of decentralization despite initial misgivings over the relocation from Sakubva.
He said the council is seeking to extend the project viability by increasing product access to produce markets by improving the road network to the centres of trade.
“When we relocated vendors we initially set three spots but faced a lot of resistance however we have diversified our approach in setting the markets.
“We are introducing one stop centres for customers to access different products at the same place and ensuring that we develop decent working spaces for our people,” said Tandi.
Director of housing Emma Mandiziba said council is already considering other alternative areas to accommodate as many persons as possible.
Mandiziba also revealed that the council intends to house over 3000 vendors across decentralised markets in Chikanga, Dangamvura and Sakubva vegetable markets.
“We are extending vending and market sites to cater for more vendors and we are looking for support to enhance their operations and diversify products at the produce market,” she said.
Jennifer Matsera, vegetable vendor, who is a beneficiary of the project in Chikanga said the training received under this project has improved their viability for vendors.
“We have been trained in saving money under the project so we are putting money together every Friday for each beneficiary who gets a chance on a weekly basis to increase their stock on a rotational basis,” said Matsera.
However another trader, Naome Bumhiwa, aged 62, who operates a table at the refurbished Brigade market in Chikanga said council demolitions have affected their trade.
“We have a challenge in carrying the produce to and from the market, we still need access to water and sanitation facilities as well as the proper waste management from council which is still a challenge for us as traders.
“The introduction of the decentralised market has affected us. Now we are facing competition from the primary produce market.
“We need the link to the highway to ensure access for everyone from the linking areas, in the rural areas to be able to access the markets,” she said.