From as early as four o’clock, well before the crack of dawn, men and women with cardboard boxes and baskets balancing on their heads can be seen pushing each other out of the way.
These are the city’s vegetable vendors, jostling to get the best deals in the biting winter morning chill, while most of Harare is still enjoying the comfort of their warm blankets.
Everyone moves fast, squeezing through the congestion of the small, busy entrance passage.
Touts can be heard shouting out prices, inviting customers to buy from their heaps and trucks.
The market place is full of adrenaline and energy as huge farm trucks are unloaded at speed, urgent deals are made with farmers, transporters and sales representatives, all amid carts piled high with potatoes, green peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens, bananas, apples, cabbages and so much more.
Vendors are active buyers between 4 and 6am, being sure to purchase what they think you’ll buy from them later in the day, on street corners all around the city.
Mbare Musika provides the biggest agricultural produce market in Harare and the nation at large. The market is located strategically close to the biggest terminus, which harbours most of the country’s rural bound and long distance transport.
All year round, the market is a beehive of activity, even holidays are irrelevant – they are the magic times in which traders record brisk business.
Farmers arrive as early as 3 am with loads of fruit and vegetables among other garden products. “We travel through the night to arrive here in the early hours of the morning because most of our products are perishable and we do not have refrigerated trucks,” said Tsidzi Marwizi, a farmer from Gutu.
They sell their products in bulk to middlemen, known as Makoronyera, who pack the products in smaller portions, crates or pockets.
However, some farmers, especially those with few products, prefer selling straight to retailers. “It pays more to sell straight to vendors and retailers. If you sell to Makoronyera they get much more than we get as farmers,” said Tawanda Makamure, a small-scale farmer from Glendale.
Consumers may also come to Mbare to buy produce straight from the farmer, which is much cheaper than elsewhere, especially when buying in bulk.
There are no fixed prices, as the value of products fluctuates with the demand and supply ratio of the day.
Although early morning is when the market is at its peak, it is open throughout the day. It’s well worth a visit to get a sense of the vibrancy of the market responsible for supplying much of Harare’s food.