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Posted 01/20/2021 in Agricuture

Being a young farmer in Zimbabwe : Part 10

Being a young farmer in Zimbabwe : Part 10

When some think of medical studies, they in no way think one can take on activities such as faming. In this article, I am joined by such a fellow who has shown not only the possibility of such but has went on to excel at it. Here is how the conversation went:

RK: Can you tell us about you 

SM: Hello and How are you? My name is Sidney Muchemwa. I'm a 24 year old final year Occupational Therapy student at the University of Zimbabwe Faculty of Medicine and Health Science.

RK: Can you share your story 

SM: Haha a very good but tough question. Being born in Bulawayo the holidays provided us with the excitement of travelling as close as we could to Harare .Every time schools closed we would take the train from Bulawayo to Chegutu since our rural home is Zvimba .It was a journey that I'd always look forward to as a very young boy .My grandparents would take us to the fields and we'd play whilst everybody else worked haha. My grandparents used to cultivate cotton, all the common legumes and maize a lot of maize!  .That is my most vivid experience with agriculture and farming as a minor. I saw it, I lived it, and I loved it!

RK: What motivated you to start farming?

SM: As I highlighted I was born in the City of Kings and then moved to Norton when I was about 8/9 years of age and ever since we've been here we've had as a family a tiny piece of land that we've always worked on every cropping season, it’s something we've always been into as urban communities. My turning point however I believe was in 2013, as a young high scholar I was home resting, taking a break from the enslaving boarding life. My dad called me and asked me to rush into town to collect someday old chicks .Well it's nothing really when you think of it but for us it was the first time starting a poultry project. The turning point, I was a star student in Agriculture at school, I loved the subject! So it was easy for me to transfer the skills from class to the home project. I became the "owner" of the birds .It was fun! That's when I started believing that this was something I am passionate about and it was enjoyable. Fast forward to Advanced level and early college studies I had lost touch with the projects, with the tiny farm and anything agriculture. Medical school also forced me to take a hiatus in 2019. It dawned on me that I have skills, experiences and resources that I'm underutilizing and I made a decision to restart all the agricultural projects I had given up on over the past years and I started saving again . I want to thank my parents for all the support they give me every time I come up with another ambitious project or crazy idea .They've always been there and continue to offer so much support especially to do with capital. They inspire me to keep going and growing, I’m grateful.

RK: How has been your experience?

SM: It's enjoyable! 

It's always gratifying when you invest so much time and effort in something you love and the results start coming through. What I've learnt is as a youth in agriculture you have to practice a lot of self-denial, sometimes there are social events that you'd feel you need to attend but at the same time the crops need tendering and the birds need quite some amount of attention, there’s high morbidity if you're carefree. So a lot of self-denial and patience comes to the fore. Overall I'm enjoying and learning at the same time .I'm loving the experience, I want this to be my life!

RK: Which region are you in? 

SM: I'm a resident of Norton haha the fish town, that’s Mashonaland West .We're in agro ecological region two yes and we are often blessed with adequate rains to support of farming efforts.

RK: What challenges have you faced? 

SM: It's space, definitely the land .I have roughly 500 birds at a given time and it's a backyard project .I have maize under about half a hectare and its NRZ space .I'm face d with a big challenge you cannot modify private land yes, you cannot construct a greenhouse yes? .It's limiting, very limiting. Apart from a lack of land, most of the times I have to borrow funds meant for school fees obligations and other domestic purposes just to finance my farming efforts and it's unsustainable. The issue of funds is also a big challenge especially for me as a young student. The single most pressing challenge is access to land, it keeps me awake at night.

RK: Has age been a hindrance? If so how?

SM: Definitely!  

Age bias is real, you walk up to someone and try to start a discussion around collaboration and already they seem not to see you as a good enough candidate for a partnership. You want to apply for land and the amount of discouragement is just shocking. And unfortunately we still have a handful of fellow young people that believe farming is for the older generations and it's a retirement plan rather than a way of life .I hope to help in changing the narrative soon.

RK: Where do you see your farming business in 5 years?

SM: I'm in my final year now and I've had to strike a balance between my studies and everything that's important to me, agriculture specifically. Of course the COVID pandemic has brought a positive dimension in terms of online learning giving more time to interact with my farm work .Next year will definitely be different. I'm already drafting my action for a new layers project I intend on starting soon, I’m trying to secure a bigger piece of land for more horticultural projects. In the next 5 years God willing I wish to expand my business poultry project from 200kg -2000kg of chicken per cycle. In terms of crop production I wish to extend my interests into Maize, Soya beans, tomatoes and medicinal herbs as soon as I get adequate land. I'm also keen on exploring more with regards to value-adding my poultry products in the next half decade.

RK: If you were put in a room with the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, what would you tell him?

SM: Dear Permanent Secretary, 

I'd like to take this opportunity to applaud and appreciate the Pfumvudza Scheme, it’s a brilliant initiative that will definitely yield results now and for the foreseeable future .Well done! 

However, young people remain under represented in agriculture. We have the passion, we have the skills we have the time but we do not have the land .We have taken up all the small spaces in our communities but they are not enough, we need more .Help us help the country. We are ready! Please help us get land, thank you.

RK: What would you like say to other young people out there?

SM: You're never too young to be in agriculture, if you can eat a single cob of maize, you can produce two .Silence the doubters, start with the home garden. You can never be too ambitious!

RK: Closing words?

SM: In the words of Nelson Mandela, "It always seems impossible until it's done." Dear reader, let no one discourage you from walking a path they have never walked themselves. Do it! Your greatest strength lies in your uniqueness and hunger to win! Stay blessed.

To connect with him, click here https://twitter.com/SidaMuchemwa?s=20.

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