The year 2019 has been very eventful particularly on the financial and economics side of things. We have seen the introduction of new statutory instruments in the financial sector, cash shortages, ban on forex trade and now we await the introduction of a new currency whose name remains top secret. These have made running any business a nightmare. Farmers have not been spared and one may even argue that they have been the hardest hit. The biggest challenge comes when one has a sizeable number of employees as is the case on most large commercial farmsas most prefer payment in cash. We all know that cash is hard to come by in Zimbabwe unless you are buying it at a premium on the black market which often tips the farm budget into the red. Farmers have devised a number of ways to try and keep farm operations on track and production at optimum. In this article we shall be looking at some of the way’s farmers are using to cope.
Incentive 0.1 Cash payments
Most rural folk and farm workers to be precise insist on receiving their salaries in hard cash. With the current cash shortage in Zimbabwe it is not sustainable to commit to paying your workforce in cash. The best thing to do is to state from day one that payment will be through electronic means such as eco-cash or bank transfer only. Salaries should be paid every fortnight or once a month and not daily this eliminates casual labourers who are not consistent. I know probably you are thinking I have tried that, and no one turned up, well let’s tackle that in the next section
Incentives 1 (Groceries)
Some farmers have taken advantage of the shortage in basic commodities and have started to give their regular workforce food hampers which often comprises of mealie meal, cooking oil and a bar of soap. This is given on top of their normal wages. One needs to be very careful not to over run the wage billi.e stay within the wage bill budget. Research has shown that the farmer will save up to 1.5% of their normal wage bill if they incentivise this way.
Incentive 2 (Feeds)
Feeding your workers is another good strategy, you can grow your own maize, use it to make maize meal and feed your workers every day, grow vegetables or allocate a certain portion of the vegetables to feed your workers. We all know how hard it is out there for everyone and most of the times people will appreciate a free meal. Again, I will emphasize on keeping it within the budget limits.
Incentive 3 (Crop rejects)
On most farms often there is a certain percentage of reject crop yield which can not be sold. This reject crop can be sold at a very cheap price to recover something from it or simply given to the workers at the end of the shift. However, one needs to be very careful as pilferage tends to be very high when this is done. Reject crop will need to be checked if indeed it is reject grade. Reject crop needs to be weighed to check if the stated weight matches.
Incentive 4 (Work targets)
This is one of my favourites, it needs someone who is good with numbers, Lets use an example. If a worker is paid $5.30 / labour day for picking peppers and the target weight being 30 kg/ labour day which translates to $0.17/kg picked. You can then incentivise this by saying every extra kg picked after picking 30kg of good quality crop (bad quality does not add to days target) the worker is paid $0.30 per kg instead of the $0.17 rate. This will improve the quality of the crop being picked and more work is done within the prescribed time frame.
Incentive 5 (Bonus)
Most farms face this problem whereby casual workers do not pitch up for work when required which often has a huge impact on the job at hand and ultimately profit. One way is to offer a small bonus to those workers who continually come to work when required. This method has worked tremendously on most commercial farms in and around Zimbabwe.
Incentive 6 (Accommodation)
Very few farms can accommodate all its workers on site and hence most farmers resort to ferrying labour from other places. This usually helps if local labour is not cooperating in terms of cash payments or for any other reason. As time progresses it is worthwhile to provide decent accommodation for your permanent workers on the farm.
Incentive 7 (Timely salary payments)
Pay your labour on time, as promised, if system of payment is going to be changed notify your workers on time. If you can have a proper wage bill management system,the better. I know most are thinking, do I need to have payslips since I only have 10 workers? the answer is yes , not only are you being professional with your 10 workers but you will find that by the time your workforce increases to 50 you will already be having a system in place. Most will runaway from having a paper trails as they avoid paying tax and NSSA but that’s a topic for another day
Emmanuel D.N Dube (ZIBN Agronomy correspondent)
Emmanuel is a qualified Agronomist with more than a decade’s experience working in the agricultural industry and development sector. You can contact him on [email protected]