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Posted 01/18/2021 in Agricuture

Being a young farmer in Zimbabwe : Part 8

Being a young farmer in Zimbabwe : Part 8

Last week, I had the opportunity of catching up with Felix, a very dedicated entrepreneur who leaves nothing to chance. As someone who both runs a business and manages a farm at the same time finishing his agricultural program, he leaves much inspiration and has earned a spot in our article today.

RK: Can you tell us about you

SFS: My name is Shingiso Felix Sahumani, male aged 26.

RK: Can you share your story

SFS: I was born and raised in Harare, grew up in Sunningdale raised by a single mom my dad passed on in April 2004. I attended my primary school at Ardbennie from grade one to seven (2001- 2007), did my secondary at St Jonhs Chikwaka high School form one to six, (2008-2013). Left Zimbabwe for South Africa for tertiary at Midrand graduate Institute now Pearson Institute of higher education (2014-2016) pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting came back in February and that’s when I started agriculture.

I never dreamt of being a farmer or saw myself being one someday but life caught up with me end of 2016. When I was in final year 2016 only left with four modules to complete my Bachelor’s degree in accounting unfortunately my sponsor (mom) lost her job as a teacher in SA and I had no one to pay for my fees to finish college, tried applying for loans, asking for help from relatives and friends but to no avail. Hence I was forced to defer and either look for a job in SA or to come back home with the family and start afresh. I chose to come back to Zimbabwe beginning of 2017 around February of course it was not an easy thing to do but I felt like home is best. Now in Zimbabwe after doing some research I realised that the agriculture industry as well as the mining industry were two of the most viable industries I can venture into so that I can make money quick then go back to SA and finish my tertiary education. Mining required a lot of initial capital which I didn’t have at that time and moment so I was only left with agriculture. That’s when the journey started with the help of my beloved family I started with broiler production in the backyard supplying takeaways in town and neighbours who were very supportive, it turned out to be good saved up money to buy fertilisers, chemicals to start growing tobacco for it is a cash crop, raise money quickly and go back to college. The unfortunate part was that I didn’t have land to grow tobacco, let alone no knowledge and very limited capital. Luckily when the tobacco auction floors opened in 2017 my sister had a takeaway at Boka auction floor and whilst she was having a conversation with one of her customers they started talking about growing tobacco and hooked us up. With the help of my mother we visited their place in Chipesa which is in Marondera east and planned on growing tobacco for the 2017-2018 season with their help. It wasn’t an easy journey that year rainfall was a bit inadequate and one could tell this is a disaster not only for me but for all the farmers who didn’t have irrigation but we managed to break-even and unfortunately the money was not enough for me to go back to SA I hated myself very much for not trying harder but I had done all I thought was going to help me see through my accounting degree. 

At that time my mother was now teaching in Marondera at Cherutombo high school and she heard of University of Zimbabwe college of Agriculture in Masomere Marondera east too, now Marondera university of agricultural sciences and technology, she visited me where we had grown our tobacco and told me about that college, trust me I didn’t even want to hear anything with regards to school but she went on to apply on my behalf regardless I had strongly told her not to, they admitted me and offered me agribusiness management. One day she came to me and told me here is the admission letter and fees receipts you are supposed to start college next week I read the letter and said to her it is okay but I am not going since you are the one who applied go attend yourself. A week after college had opened the acting registrar called me and said if you don’t come register by end of second week we will be forced to admit you in august that’s when I decided to go and at a peak at the college, I went there registered and the setup wasn’t to my liking then I left again only to start college in week three after they had told me they will give me at least five hectares to do my own projects whilst I am learning. With the help of the Vice Chancellor then Dr Poshiwa, the registrar and one of my all-time mentor and favourite lecturer Mr T. Tauro surely I was given the piece of land to do my own production. For the 2018-2019 season I had 2 hectares of tobacco, half a hectare of potatoes and later on asked the college management to write me a recommendation letter to apply for command agriculture maize for the other two hectares, thank God it was a success. Everything went well until there was change of management at the institution unfortunately there were a lot of misunderstandings although I had all my paper work in hand to such an extend I was denied access to the college tobacco barns and I had two barns full of tobacco but I was locked out by the head of Security Mr Mbano may God bless him wherever he is. I had to sneak into the curing barns but it was too late and I lost all the tobacco in there I tried to purse the whole thing and I wanted to sue everyone but my family talked me out of it and I did let go but I haven’t forgotten about that and if I am being honest I am very cross about that to such an extent if I think of growing tobacco now I feel like crying. That was my last season of growing tobacco I harvested everything that year and told myself I am never going to set my foot in the field again.  The first quarter of the 2019-2020 season I didn’t want to do anything to do with farming but developed new hobbies like hatching fertilized eggs and selling chicks. Whilst at it one day a friend of mine Walter Madhiri called me asking me to help one of his relatives who wanted to start up her horticulture projects in Mrewa on consultancy basis I would go there on weekends and they would pay me I agreed and it all worked out well. From there I planted tomatoes in partnership with a colleague. That time I was now on attachment at Rush Fresh Farm Produce where I learnt a lot and I helped them in their agribusiness department mostly marketing and was one of the pioneers of their company digital marketing team. I finished in June 2020 and whilst I was on holiday I went to volunteer at Mafuro Dairy farm to have an appreciation of the dairy industry I worked very well there with the manager Mr Bernard.

 I am now back in college and this is my final year. Thank God I finally managed to get back on my feet and I am really proud to say I am a fulltime farmer again from the proceeds of the tomatoes I started my own piggery, garlic production and in the process of starting my orchard planting mainly apple trees and peaches since I moved all my production in my rural areas in Inyanga whilst I am looking for a farm to do mass production and be one of Zimbabwe’s finest famers and serial agripreneur.  

RK: Tell us about your startup, what does it do?

SFS: Still work in progress the trade name is Ultimate Water Solutions Zimbabwe. UWS is a Startup company founded by Felix Shingiso Sahumani and its main objective is to help the Zimbabwean community with methods to conserve water through water harvesting, recycling, among other means

RK: What motivated you to start farming?

SFS: Firstly I was motivated by pain, love of money by I can now say agriculture has now become something I am passionate about so I am motivated by passion.

RK: How has been your experience?

SFS: My experience so far has been hectic but worth it for it has trained me to always think outside the box, my experiences has taught me that one of the greatest thing in life is networking on the other hand my experience has taught me that I can be whoever I want in life with regards to agriculture for agriculture is the way to go.

RK: Which region are you in?

SFS:  Mostly region 1 which is Manicaland and region 2B which is Mashonaland East.

RK: What challenges have you faced?

SFS: The greatest challenge so far is land, I really need a farm of my own so that it will be easier for me to access loans, government schemes, and contract farming etc. 

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

SFS: For someone who started agriculture at the age of 23 I cannot really say age has been much of hindrance to me although at times people do not believe that a youth can actually be a farmer and be so competitive and access to resources such as land is quite difficult.

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

SFS: In five years’ time I see myself  as one of the greatest well known famer and serial agriprenuer in Zimbabwe, and Africa.  Owning a ranch/farm in Mashonaland west. Owning several value addition companies feeding the nation and exporting within the continent and beyond.

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

SFS: If I were to be put in the same room with the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture Dr John Basera before saying anything firstly I would shake his hand and tell him  what a role model he is to me and most of the youths out there and also tell him I wish to hold  his office someday in life. I wish he could train me to be the best farmer/agronomist as well as a PhD in Agribusiness holder and have a turn-around in my career like he has turned out to be in his career. From there then I would ask him to continue empowering the youth in the country in the agriculture sector for it is the backbone of our economy and the youths are the holders of the future. He should work with us the energetic ones to revitalise agriculture for it is the key component of the nation’s efforts to realise Vision 2030.

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

SFS: To the other young people out there I would like to say  to say to them gone are the days to stereotype and say agriculture is for the old, no agriculture is for us all for we all need to eat every day.  The future of this country lies in our hands its high time we take interest in the key sectors of our economy like agriculture. It really doesn’t mean if you are a farmer you are going to do donkey work, one can be an agriculture engineer, a doctor who attends to farmers, all the occupations can fit in the agriculture sector as long as we are all working towards feeding the people of this country and beyond. To my sisters you can do this too you can be pace setters too there are organisations you can join like women in agriculture Zimbabwe and you can check out one of ladies who is doing well in the sector by the name Wadzanai Manyore  an agriculture show TV presenter on ZBC TV as well as a great farmer.

RK: Closing words?

SFS: Agriculture is the way to go and its high time we take agriculture as a business and you won’t go wrong let us all try and do farming the formal way like go to the deeds office register your own company it is very easy and cheap I for one registered mine last year January. Also let us adopt smart agriculture, let us all use technology to our advantage like what the guys at FarmHut has done, for it is the way to go. My last and final words are YES WE CAN DO IT. 

I dare you all to go and read or listen to a speech given by Paul Harvey in 1978 entitled “so God Made a Farmer”

To get in touch with the youthful farmer, do reach out to him on twitter https://twitter.com/FelixSahu?s=20.

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