Age at interview: 48
We meet with Nelson at the office in Harare, where he works as the national coordinator of Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers' Forum (ZIMSOFF) — that is, when he is not on his farm. Within a couple of minutes, we were completely transported as Nelson took us along his life journey. His voice is quiet, and a cheeky smile lingered on his face as he shared stories of childhood mischief and disappointment, as well as his adult dreams and achievements. Nelson has a wealth of experience in agroecological practice, but what he really brings to the fore is his deep spiritual connection to land and to the ancestral lineages of the people of Zimbabwe. He is solemn for brief moments when he speaks of the deaths of those who fought for Zimbabwean independence and is quick to focus on what needs to be done to keep the legacy of the independence fighters alive and to honour the land they fought so hard for Black Zimbabweans to have.
Between the cities of Kwekwe and Gweru, in Central Zimbabwe, is an area called Chiundura. That is the place of my birth. My name is Nelson Mudzingwa and I am 48 years old. I was born to rural farmers, the fifth child of Peter Mudzingwa and Grace Tembo. In my family, there were eight of us, five boys and three girls from one mother and father. The firstborn was my brother Emmanuel, who unfortunately has passed on. After Emmanuel come my two sisters, Gertrude then Dorothy. I was the fifth-born and flanked between two boys: Conneck, who is the fourth child, and Atwell, who is the sixth. We boys were a notoriously mischievous trio. Then came the seventh child, Nancy, and the youngest, Peter.
The land I grew up on was communal land which my parents bought the year I was born, after relocating from a white-owned commercial farm that my father worked on. The land we moved to was over 10 hectares in size, and it was sold to my father by the village head.
Once we arrived on the land, we established an orchard of mangos, guavas, peaches, avocado, and lemons. My father worked full time as a driver, but he was still very good at supporting activities on our farm. Though we were a new family to the community, we quickly were respected, because we had a vision of the kind of life we wanted. We worked hard and produced a lot.
When we were growing up, my sisters did a lot of the housework. But they got married quite young, so my brothers and I had to take over the household duties when they left the house. A lot of our work was farmwork, because we used to grow our own food.
A very visible scar
Conneck and I were very close in age and had a very close relationship, one that we’ve managed to maintain even to this day. If Conneck was not going to school, I would not go. We were inseparable. Atwell was about four years younger than me, but he often followed Conneck and me around.
When I was about six years old, we got ourselves into some serious trouble. My maternal grandfather used to get a large allocation of sugar monthly from his work, and so he used to give my father 25 kilograms of sugar each month. As kids, we loved sugar, but we hardly got any, because our mother was very tough. There was a drink called Lemon Twist, which we loved but couldn’t afford. We thought it was made from sugar and lemons, so on one occasion, when our parents were out working, we decided to make some. We collected lemons from the lemon tree and filled our cups with sugar and started squeezing lemon juice into the sugar.
While we were enjoying our “Lemon Twist,” we heard our mother’s voice as she approached home. Knowing we were going to be in trouble, we decided to run away. In our haste we left the half-filled cups of sugar, the open bag of sugar, and spilt sugar sprinkled on the ground. Given how strict our mother was, we were too scared to come home, so we stayed out with the animals till sundown.
By the time the evening came, we were hungry, so we decided to try to get honey from a hive. But we did not know how. Conneck took a big stone and threw it at the hive. The stone bounced off it and came back to hit me right below the eye and knocked me down. I was bleeding heavily, and we were trying to stop the bleeding with sand. My screams were so loud that my mother found us by following my voice. Conneck was beaten by my mother that day! I still have a very visible scar below my eye all these years later.
On a different occasion, when we were still young boys, I remember we were out in the field on a late afternoon. We looked up at the setting sun, and it looked so large and so close to the earth that we thought it was falling down. Without hesitation we left all the goats and cattle and ran home shouting, “Zuva rakudonha! Zuva rakudonha!” meaning, “The sky is falling.” Thinking back, it seems so silly, but we really believed the sun was falling that day.
Free education for all
I did my primary and secondary education at a nearby school. And then in 1980, when the government introduced what was then called “Group A” schools, my siblings and I were fortunate enough to be some of the first Black children to be enrolled there.
Before independence, it was very rare to have secondary schools in rural areas. At that time there were only boarding schools, that were mainly run by missionaries, and to get a spot in such schools was very difficult. But after independence, a policy was introduced that emphasised free education for all.
As young people, my siblings and I were early beneficiaries of the new education policy. We were integrated into the schools, along with older students who had left school without completing their studies to fight in the independence war. This meant that we had young as well as mature students in the same class, but it was fine, as the teachers of that time were quite able to deal with this dynamic.
I was much more interested in hunting
When I started first grade, I was in a school with a headmaster who was very strict. School life was about discipline and hard work. He loved agriculture, so that featured prominently into what I did at school. He had us producing our own eggs and vegetables and running the school garden to supplement the school’s income. Teachers at that time were quite strict with the schoolchildren.
That environment had a very bad effect on kids like myself, because being told what to do felt like torture. I wasn’t allowed to use my brain to think of what I wanted to do, because I was just expected to follow the rules. Even though I would often skip out on my classes, I would pass tests without revising my notes or doing homework.
I was not very interested in school. I was much more interested in hunting. I would go out hunting with our dogs or catch bush mice in the forest by digging burrows, or I’d go fishing. I felt like I was contributing to the home when I provided meat for the family.
We didn't like eating just vegetables, but we had very few animals at home because the colonial government did not allow us to have more than 10 goats, cattle, or sheep. That meant we could not maintain a meat supply from our livestock. The colonial government said the size of rural homesteads did not allow for more than this number. I think it was just their way of controlling our wealth. Once you got to 11 cattle, you were forced to sell and the buyers were always white commercial farmers who liked the animal breeds that we kept.
Like winning the lottery
As I said, in primary school I was very uninterested, but once I reached high school, I began to enjoy reading my notes and studying with friends after school. I was very curious and spent a lot of time with teachers asking questions. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to have access to books and even access to other information. It was before all this technology and Google. We had to share the few books available and that was challenging.
I did my ordinary levels, O levels, in 1987, and very fortunately, I was the only student in my school who managed to pass the five subjects required for matriculation. I managed to pass English, mathematics, and science, which were considered the three most important matriculation subjects. For one to pass the way I did was like winning the lottery.
The beginning of the change
Growing up, life at home was really about growing food. Straight after school you were expected to go directly to the forest and join the others to dig anthill soil. My father, being a driver, would bring the work lorry to help us out. In order to do this, he’d have to go off his work route, which was not allowed by the employer. But he would risk doing so because he wanted to support his family. He would carry one or two loads of anthill soil from the forest and take it to our field. The anthill soil kept our field very fertile.
In this period, the “boss and boy” kind of a life was very much still alive. When we’d visit my father [at his work], we'd find that he would be called a boy by his white employers. I was surprised to see that happening to him, but there was nothing we could do because this was the era when Zimbabwe was not independent.
In 1975, when I was almost five years old, an agricultural extension officer came to visit my father. I was surprised to see somebody who was so purely white. I didn't know that people of that nature would visit homes like ours. He came to try to convince my parents to start practising agriculture with chemicals and GMOs [genetically modified organisms], something we were not doing. My mother would save our seeds at home and used to keep granaries of different maize varieties. There is one particular variety that my sister is still producing in Mazowe today which was bred by my mother when I was young. The coming of the agricultural extension officer was the beginning of the change of things at our home.
Our quality of life was not improving
When that agricultural extension officer came to our home, he introduced a completely new agricultural approach. Before he came, we would use weeds and leaves that we would collect from our weeding and around the trees to make compost for enriching the soil. We would also collect manure and humus from the forests.
The agricultural extension officer introduced fertilisers and this newly developed seed. Almost immediately you could see the trade-off, that our quality of life was not improving. We continued to be low-income farmers; in fact, we became worse off than before.
My father and mother increasingly got into arguments around this time, because my father thought that she must not have been using the inputs properly. The bags of fertiliser would run out before the whole field had been covered. At other times my father would come home for the weekend and ask if there was still any seed left, and my mother would tell him that all the seed was finished because what we were given was not as abundant as the seed we had when we were planting our traditional seed.
I hated the agricultural competitions
Leading into the agricultural competitions organised by the agricultural extension officers, the quarrelling at home was terrible. My father’s attitude was completely different, and all he did was harass everyone around the home. The reasons for why he was mad were endless, and nothing was ever done the way he wanted. It was such a difference, because before these competitions and this chemically based farming, we used to plant and harvest without tensions.
When my father was on edge; even the oxen were beaten up. One time we were using our ox-drawn plough. At that time we had only two oxen, and one of them was a little agitated and not moving in a straight line, as it should when ploughing. My father left the field, and when he came back, he was holding an axe. Right there in the field, my father axed the ox for not ploughing in a straight line.
I hated the agricultural competitions because they turned him into a person none of us liked or could understand. He killed a very nice animal because he failed to meet a target being driven by the agricultural extension officer.
In order for a farmer to qualify to host a “field day,” all the crops had to be planted by a certain date and the field should not have a weed in sight. It felt like we were no longer farming to feed our families but to compete.
We were farming to ensure high yields in order to please the agricultural extension officer, and in the process, we were destroying the land, because to ensure these high yields meant bringing in lots of fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides onto the land. If you go back to my rural land now, all these years later, all you’ll find is loose, dry, and infertile soil.
It fell on us
In 1983, when I was about 13 years old, my mother got sick. She became mentally ill. My parents also separated at this time, which further affected the well-being of the entire family. My father married another wife and moved to Budiriro, while we remained in Chiundura with my mother. Once he left, he focused entirely on his new wife and their children, so he wasn’t much help to us.
During the early stages of my mother’s illness, there would be periods where she would insist at random that she wanted to go to the village where she was born. She would take the two youngest children and start walking with them. Her village is hundreds of kilometres from where our home was. She also, once, while in a bad bout, burnt my school and birth certificates.
It was difficult living with my mother’s condition, because we were just children. By the time my mother became sick, my two elder sisters had married and left the house, and our eldest brother, Emmanuel, was working in Harare. So it fell on Conneck and me to take care of the rest of the children. For periods during this time, we survived just from hunting and gardening.
We became one of the poorest families
Eventually Emmanuel lost his job and moved back home. My brother Emmanuel was extremely irresponsible when he moved back home. Him taking over, being the head of the household, since my father was no longer at home, was one of the worst things that happened to my family. Emmanuel started to sell family property and cattle that we owned. From being one of the best developed homes and thriving families in our rural area, we became one of the poorest.
There was no clear direction or vision in the home anymore. Within two years, he had sold every material thing of value we had. I put up with his nonsense as a young child, because he was 18 years older than me. But when I was 20 years old, I finally stood up to him.
My mother died in 2016, still battling her illness. The drugs she was given throughout her illness helped to subdue her energy, make her eat, and prevent her from disappearing but that was all. Modern medicine and even traditional healers failed to really help her.
I did as my father asked
In 1990, when I was 20, I decided I wanted to be a game ranger, so I submitted my application and was called for an interview by the parks and wildlife department. I wanted to become a game ranger out of the interest in wildlife that I had developed being in the forest as a young person. Unfortunately, my father said, “No, you cannot do that because you are the most responsible one at home. Please, don’t take this job, and I will try to find something for you that is better.”
I never became a game ranger because I did as my father asked. Instead, I regrouped and sent another application; this time, it was to an agricultural college close to home called Mlezu Agricultural College. I was accepted.
My father agreed to me attending the college, as long as I promised to go home every weekend to make sure the house and my siblings were okay. My youngest brother was 12 at this point.
In the agricultural college, the kind of agriculture I was learning about was similar to what the land extension officer from my childhood had promoted, but with more in-depth information. There was a large emphasis on mono-crops and on livestock.
During the Christmas holiday of my first year in college, my brother Emmanuel died. He was knocked down by a car while crossing the road drunk at a township where he had gone to drink. Some people, even within the family, celebrated his death because he was just a nuisance. Despite the death of my brother and the challenges of informing my mother about his death, I graduated two years later in 1992 as the best student in my class.
We work brilliantly together
I got married in 1992 to a woman named Vongai — who is as incredible as was my mother. She’s three years younger than myself. In fact, we are from the same village. We grew up together, and we started always talking after I left school. And eventually our relationship grew from there. My wife, Vongai, and me are opposites in personality. We’ve learnt to understand each other, and we work brilliantly together to sustain our family.
We now have two children, a boy and a girl. The girl was born in 1993, and her name is also Grace. The boy is called Peter Mudzingwa, after my father. My daughter is now 24 years old and is studying for her master’s. She did her first degree in economics. My son is almost 18 years, and he is doing his A levels. They are both incredibly bright.
A guiding star
In March of 1993 I went to Masvingo to join the Association of Zimbabwe Traditional Environmental Conservationists [AZTREC]. It was an organisation that was founded by veterans who fought in the independence war, spirit mediums, and chiefs. This was a very new direction on my life path.
Sadly, in the same month that I went to Masvingo, my father passed on. There was a challenge in getting the news of his death to me, but a strange incident occurred in the early hours of that morning. I was taking a walk at 2 or 3 a.m. … and the night was moonless. I saw a guiding star right above me.
This guiding star would not drop. It went straight ahead of me, and it shone so bright that I could see myself. I thought it was a ghost because it was still very dark. This guiding star faded slowly and then disappeared.
When I told one of the guys at our camp what had happened, he told me that a guiding star was a message that an elder had passed on. Immediately I just knew it was my father, and so I was waiting for the message to arrive. A telegram then came through confirming what I already knew. I went to the funeral and a few days later returned to AZTREC.
Focus on indigenous knowledge systems
AZTREC was still in its infancy stages at this point, having just adopted tree growing and tree care nurseries from the forestry commission. AZTREC’s key areas of focus included establishing tree nurseries for distribution to the local communities, developing sustainable agricultural guidelines, and supporting local community development projects.
AZTREC also had a major focus on indigenous knowledge systems, which, to me, was one of the reasons I felt at home there. It reminded me of the early years of my life and the ways in which we grew food. Joining the organisation fine-tuned my journey to reconnect to my spirituality. I found myself in a very good and accountable organisation, and I stayed on as one of their sustainable agriculture extension officers. I would work, and for the duration of my time working in a community, I’d stay in some buildings made of timber and asbestos that the forestry commission had built.
In 2000, during the land reform process, AZTREC benefited from the redistribution of what was called the Shashe block of farms. It's an area of 15,020 hectares that was subdivided into six white-owned farms during the colonial area. AZTREC was allocated 184 hectares of land close to the Shashe River to assist with conservation.
A movement of farmers
We got that land by arguing that we were experienced in soil conservation and in water harvesting. We committed to working on ecological land use designs and growing plants that could save resources. We also committed to educating the farmers that had newly been allocated land in the Shashe block of farms as part of the land reform on how to develop their eight-hectare plots.
What used to be just six farms under the colonial regime is now land used by 365 smallholder farmers. The new farmers are using 4,000 hectares for their homesteads and farming, and the other 11,000 or so hectares was left as cattle-grazing land. The grazing land was not suitable for growing crops, and we understood that. So we transformed the land into a food forest.
The 184 hectares that I mentioned that were allocated to AZTREC were split among 12 families that were recommended by AZTREC. This was a process supported by Participatory Ecological Land Use Management as a way to begin supporting a movement of farmers that would lead their own development agenda and become a voice for farmers at a regional level wishing to advocate for themselves and build their own institutions.
In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in South Africa. This meeting brought together many smallholder farmers from across Africa and other countries and facilitated connections amongst people that were from the same country but did not yet know each other. It was at this meeting that a national Zimbabwean body of the Eastern and Southern Africa Farmers’ Forum, which was then later transformed into Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers’ Forum [ZIMSOFF], the organisation where I currently serve as the national coordinator. ZIMSOFF functioned for a while without formal registration and eventually registered as a nonprofit organisation in 2007.
Through our sweat
My wife and I moved with only our bag of clothes and basic household furniture, like sofas and a cooker, when we moved to Shashe in 2000. We did not have any of the things required by farmers, like hoes, a plough, a scorch cart, spanners, cattle, goats, or chickens.
From 2005 until 2013, I worked on our farm and supported the efforts of ZIMSOFF as volunteer coordinator. I was only earning a living from what we were producing on the plot. Through our sweat, our children were able to go to school. Then, with the support of some relatives, we were able to buy cattle, goats, chickens, and guinea fowl.
Our plot was the first to establish water harvesting dams. Our farm is situated on a hilltop, so I was afraid that our land was going to be washed away. I had to dig deep contours on my own. Many farmers now have adopted this idea because they've seen it working for me. When it's raining, soil runoff is no longer an issue on my plot. We have lots of water that we conserve from the hilltop and rooftops. We have lots of clean water. In fact the whole plot is like a wetland.
A wetland can be rehabilitated and a wetland can be created by men. I have proved it on our farm. I was also very careful not to overclear the land. I kept most of the trees, especially on the homestead. Now the neighbours are starting to grow trees to replace the ones they cut down.
Repossession of our birthright
The land reform process was difficult, because the land issue in Zimbabwe was never a simple thing. Outside of Zimbabwe, and in some circles within Zimbabwe, the land reform was negatively discussed as just an unofficial land occupation or a taking over of farms by the regime.
In my opinion, though, it was repossession of our birthright, in an actual sense, because we were taking back our resources from colonial powers. We were claiming our land, which, if one thinks back to the liberation struggle, was the very reason for the liberation struggle.
As farmers, the struggle was to repossess our cultures, to repossess our governance, to repossess our natural resources, and to champion our own development. In this way we were — and are still — a part of the struggle to liberate ourselves, as practitioners of agriculture who are sustaining ourselves through preserving resources, conserving water, guarding our seeds and diversity of foods, and protecting the land.
Crops that are true to my people
I integrate my spiritual beliefs into my farming practice. I cannot be a farmer without producing crops like rapoko, sorghum, and pearl millet, because these are the crops that are true to my people and my history, particularly rapoko, because of its sacred value to my culture and my cultural values.
Rapoko is used in the preparation of traditional brews, as well as cooking for traditional rituals, and it is much better than maize. For example, rapoko has 11 percent crude protein. It’s very high in iron and in calcium, while white maize is just 7 percent crude protein and is very low in calcium and iron. Similar benefits of high crude protein content can be found in millet and sorghum, with 13 and 12 percent crude protein, respectively. The small grains have been sidelined because they exist outside of what the industrial agricultural economy controls, which is largely maize. In part this is because the small — and drought-resistant — grains are easily preserved and shared, and thus cannot be monopolised by the big companies.
Over the years we’ve had several droughts. We are in a low rainfall region, and so the average rainfall is about 400 millimetres per annum, which is not enough to produce adequately. Since we’ve been able to harvest as much of the rainfall that we get as possible, we have managed to produce adequate food over the years, even when there was drought.
I grow different kinds of food: maize, sorghum, pearl millet, rapoko, sunflower, groundnuts, round nuts, pumpkins, cowpeas, watermelons, and cucumber, among other things. We produce food for our own consumption, for seed, and for stock feed. We are very strict to not let any single grain from our plot go to waste. We also process and produce cornmeal and oil.
I get annoyed by the cost of seed. I do not understand why commercial seed costs so much. Why buy seed when I can produce my own?
My form of resistance
I was given all sorts of names. Some label me as an organic farmer, and others call me “Mazimbabwe,” because I am not willing to be fooled and I am not easily taken in by colonial ideas. I think we have to do away completely with exogenous thinking that imagines that knowledge only comes from outside of our people and culture. The exogenous ideas must only complement what we have designed, what we ourselves have thought about and know.
The plot of land that I have is virgin now; I have never used any chemical fertilisers on the plot. I am extremely careful not to disturb this virginity. I have introduced organic manure to fertilise the land. Ever since I‘ve had cattle and goats, the task of keeping the soil chemical free and healthy is much easier. Making my own manure is serious for me, because that is my form of resistance against the fertiliser industry.
I believe that soil is living soil. I feel it as part of me, as part of my life. I imagine myself getting a cup full of Compound D and drinking it. What state would my body be in after ingesting that chemical? That is the same question I ask myself about adding chemical fertilisers to the soil. I believe it’s the responsibility of the soil to feed the crops. If the soil is healthy and nourished, it will feed the plant.
I am currently trying to develop my own farm into a learning centre that will support farmer-to-farmer learning exchanges through using farmer — and not outside — resources.
They are born from the greatness of their ancestors
I wish for my community to be food sovereign. I want a state that is actually founded on sovereign households. If households are dependent on external entities like chemical corporations, then the state cannot be said to be sovereign.
I want my local community to be seed sovereign because I don’t want a community that is dependent on a seed industry that is concerned about profit and not people or their well-being. They make a lot of money! Imagine 1 million farmers buying 10 kilograms of seed maize at $30. At that rate we have given the seed industry $30 million, and yet we're crying that Zimbabwe has no money. What are we saying? We're joking.
If we were serious we would take $30 million and spend it on strengthening our local seed systems and do away with seed companies all together. We need to strengthen our farmers to become seed secure and seed producers of their own varieties of choice.
I was raised in a family that taught me our traditional ways of growing and producing food. My family always ensured that there was food on the table. It is this same knowledge that I would like to pass on to generations to come. There must be adequate and diverse, nutritious food on the table for my grandchildren and even my great-grandchildren.
Also, they mustn't feel like they are weak characters in their own society. There is quite a lot of threat to the cultures and languages in Zimbabwe. We need to recognise what we are in danger of losing and take measures to protect it.
I wish for a very strong future of well-committed youth who can defend our sovereignty as a people and who can defend our own cultures. They mustn't feel inferior in their own society, as a people, because they are born from the greatness of their ancestors.
- Formed in 2003, Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF) ‘envisions improved livelihoods of organised and empowered smallholder farmers practising agroecology.’ For more see: http://www.africansinthediaspora.org/zimbabwe-smallholder-organic-farmers-forum/ (accessed November 4, 2018).
- Chiundura communal lands lie in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe, in the geographical centre of Zimbabwe.
- In 1978 the Ministry of Education and Culture combined its former divisions of European, African, Coloured, and Asian Education into one structure and endorsed that structure in the Education Act of 1979, thus establishing a nonracial educational policy a year before independence. Before the act, Zimbabwe's education system was divided between African and European schools. After the shift in policy and leadership, the education system split into government schools, community schools, and private schools. Government schools were also split into three divisions called Group A, B, and C. White students historically attended Group A schools, that offered highly trained teachers and a quality education. After the reforms, some Black children were able to attend the Group A schools.
- An agricultural extension officer or land development officer directly works with farmers and companies on issues related to agriculture. Such officers’ primary role is to aid these groups to make better decisions to increase agricultural production. Extension officers are constantly armed with the latest techniques and information related to agriculture, and they relay this information to farmers and agricultural business.
- Every agricultural session, the extension officers ran competitions for the best maintained fields and the best harvest within villages. They held these contests among farmers using seed and fertilisers provided by the extension officers.
- Field days are special events. A series of demonstration skits, speeches, and other activities focused on a central theme take place over the course of a day to promote new practices and bring recognition to successful farmers and agricultural workers in a particular area. The prevailing mood is festive, and the atmosphere is not unlike that of a country fair. The point of such a day is to call attention to new and exciting developments in agriculture.
- Budiriro is a high-density suburb to the south-west of Harare.
- A community-based organisation, AZTREC aims to revive African knowledge systems that where degraded during colonialism and to promote endogenous development.
- The Forestry Commission is a government organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Climate. It contributes to national socioeconomic development through regulation and capacity enhancement in the utilisation and management of forest resources.
- The Zimbabwean government formally announced a fast-track land reform process in July 2000, in which they aimed to acquire land from white commercial farmers for redistribution to poor and middle-income landless Black Zimbabweans.
- “A food forest, or forest garden, is a type of garden plan that mimics forest growth patterns to ensure better yield, maximum light exposure, and simpler management for producing edible harvests. In a food forest, vegetables, herbs, and fruiting trees are planted similarly to the way they would grow in the natural world.” For more see: https://www.maximumyield.com/definition/3387/food-forest.
- The Eastern and Southern Africa Farmers’ Forum comprises a network of grassroots small-scale farmers’ organisations working in 15 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa regions. The movement started in 2002, during the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
- A scotch cart is a small two-wheeled cart with a detachable or slanting panel at the back. The panel is used for transporting produce and other material around an agricultural home.
- This nickname — given to Nelson by neighbours and based on his love for Zimbabwe and protectiveness of traditional ideas — means “mother of Zimbabwe.”
- Compound D fertilisers and ammonium nitrate are the most commonly used fertilisers with maize. Prior to 2000, maize growing accounted for one-third of the fertiliser applied in the large-scale commercial subsector and 90 percent of fertiliser use in the smallholder subsector.