Matilda Manhambo finds greatness in agriculture, leads Gweru into global market

By Alfred Tembo

Building on past experience and passion could also offer a lifetime vacation in anyone’s self gifted retirement package says prominent Gweru-based commercial farmer, Matilda Manhambo.

Over the years, she realised that growing up in a rural setup, life choices would be influenced by nature and decided by opportunities at every stage and moment of maturity.

But after rendering service to the Republic of Zimbabwe as a civil servant for 36 solid years, she concludes that every outcome in life was authored by experience.

“Growing up l had a passion for farming and my parents were subsistence farmers. They were dependent on the trade – from paying our school fees to settling every domestic bill, it was through farming,” said Ms. Manhambo.

But the connection to consider farming was then decided and forged into being by realities associated with age.

She said, “When I was still employed I thought and decided on a retirement package and in 2006, I settled for farming in readiness for retirement.”

Armed with a diploma in accounting, she joined the government as a clerk in the department of research and specialist under the Ministry of Agriculture. She rose up the ranks through promotion. At the time of retirement, she was now a senior executive officer and believed that farming was a business that could help create wealth and employment opportunities for the country.

“The farm now has 22 permanent employees and from time to time, we call for seasonal farmworkers.

“We now operate commercially. We have a Global Gap certification for peas, beans and flowers so the farm exports its produce,” said Ms. Manhambo.

She further explained that resilience is key in every business engagement.

“In farming there is endurance but with a good plan, qualified personnel, and proper farm management, the production will be good. One can start small and grow with time,” she said.

Kupfuma Ishungu Farm specialises in horticulture, livestock, poultry and piggery, goats, and sheep. The enterprise operates two butcheries, that serve as ports for the farm’s primary selling outlets.

Matilda Manhambo's successful farming enterprise…

- Byron Adonis Mutingwende
Pahlela Phikanisi Records Top Two Best-selling Steers after Pen Fattening

Pahlela Phikanisi is a 60year old small to medium-scale beef cattle producer from Musisinyane village of Chikombedzi in Chiredzi district. He is one of the 38 Farmers (30 males and 8 females) who inducted their cattle Mhlanguleni CBC and Chanienga Satellite CBC feedlots in Chiredzi district. 

“In this area, we have been struggling with a market dominated by middlemen who purchase cattle at very low prices and then make huge profits. This scenario discourages many farmers We realised that this trend discouraged investment in animal husbandry by the farmers in the district”, said Pahlela

Lack of organised marketing of cattle in Zimbabwe is one of the bottlenecks affecting beef cattle production. As a result, smallholder farmers resort to the informal way of marketing their cattle, with middlemen arbitrarily setting prices and offloading the animals at cattle auction points and to abattoirs in towns often benefiting more than the farmers themselves.

Pahlela sold two Brahman cross steers after feedloting them for 45 days during which time they gained an average weight of 95 kg. The two animals weighed 690 kg and 670 kg and improved grade from economy at induction, up to commercial at slaughter. They had a total value of US$ 2,064 after slaughter.

“After deductions for the costs feed, induction, grading and inspection, I took home US$1,682. I used part of the proceeds to purchase a variety of household items for my family and agricultural inputs for the 4-hectare plot where I have planted maize and sorghum. I am also constructing a three roomed house in my homestead.

We are grateful for the BEST project for this CBC model and linking us directly to the market. With this new knowledge that we now have and the improved incomes, I foresee a brighter future for cattle producers in this district. I will be fattening four additional animals in the 2021 pen fattening season”, said Pahlela

Finding local solutions for local problems: The story of Vusanani Farmer Group.

Meet Thembi Mlilo the chairlady of Vusanani farmer group based in ward 4, in the Mbizingwe area of Umzingwane district. The group has total of 11 members (8 females and 3 males). Like most people of Umzingwane the group members bank on agricultural activities for their livelihood, however as the case with a lot of Zimbabwean small holder farmers they are acutely aware of the constraints presented by the environment and a changing climate. In Mbizingwe, land is used on a communal basis, cattle and other livestock graze on communally managed rangelands. In the past, the community elders demarcated land for different uses, and often set aside grazing land for times of drought, when grass and fodder became scarce. With the erosion of these systems of natural governance over time

and the change in climate, an open access approach to land use became common and the impacts are starkly evident-both environmentally and socially. Uncontrolled grazing and increasing herd sizes have caused significant livestock loses. In Umzingwane district they were 250 cases of documented poverty deaths which is highly significant since one animal might be valued at USD $350.00.

Finding Communal Solutions

In response to these problems the group has since ventured into bush meal production (locally made stock feed): coming up with local solutions to local problems. The group started as an ISAL group in 2016, contributing $5 a month and lending money to members at 10% monthly interest rate. The group received trainings on ISALs from ZRBF-MELANA and other NGOs. In order to lock the value of their profits made through ISALs, they invested in goat production, since the Zimbabwean local currency lacks stability. The group then received an improved goat breed, a Boer buck from ZRBF – MELANA accompanied by numerous t r a i n i n g s o n l i v e s t o c k  m a n a g e m e n t f r o m t h e project and government extension workers. However, after securing the buck they still faced challenges with grazing space and fodder for their livestock, thus they t u r n e d t o b u s h m e a l production. V u s a n a n i f a r m e r g r o u p invested in hammer mill equipment which would be used for bush meal processing. The group members mobilized funds for 30% co-financing towards acquisition of the hammer mill. In raising their portion of the equity, they collected 7.5 tons of dry carmel foot pods (from local trees). They sold this to Mzilikazi goats (a commercial goat breeder in Bulawayo who processes commercial bush meal) and realized $3358.00. ZRBF-MELANA then contributed 70% in October 2019.

The production of bush meal holds significant potential to generate income for the group and for now the bush meal has realized proven benefits for the body-score condition of the animals that have received the feed. The group is looking beyond supplying feed for its on project but has since turned it into a viable business by supplying the feed to the local community and beyond. Although the business is in its early stages the group has received significant returns. From grinding and selling 13.5 tons of bush meal feed, they generated a total of ZWL $16 188 and 17 buckets (18kg in a bucket) of grain. The business targets to service at least 350 livestock farmers with at least 350 tons of bush meal by end of 2020.

The hammer mill will work both on and off season as it will be used for cereal grinding. From the grinding services the group has since realized ZWL $1967.00. As with any business the group accrued running expenses of ZWL$ 8594.00 which included repairs and maintenance. However, from the profits the group purchased a scotch cart for ZWL$ 5000.00 as way of locking the value of their profits. They intend to exchange the scotch cart with 2 heifers


Finding local solutions for local problems: The story of Vusanani Farmer Group.

"Bush meal production will help a lot in our fight against climate change, and will reduce its effects, especially amongst the women, who have demonstrated that they are strong agents of change" - Thembi Mlilo: Chairperson Vusanani Farmer Group

Chicken rearing changing lives in Gokwe

Born 35 years ago Philimon Mahlalela is a young entrepreneur whose business is into ICT, horticulture and poultry production. Mahlalela is married to Praise M. Mahlalela and they have two children. He lives at Mpoki village, 15 km from Gokwe Centre. Mahlalela was trained in ETW in December 2018 at Gokwe Centre and was focusing in Information Communication Technology (ICT) when he joined the entrepreneurship training programme. Although he had built a fowl run some years back, it was lying idle and not in use. Attending the Empretec Entrepreneurship programme motivated him to explore the

opportunity he had identified in poultry production. Thus, resuscitated the poultry project that he had abandoned. Asked on why he started on chicken production, Mahlalela's answer was that although he built the old fowl run long back, he had abandoned the project and never kept any chickens. “It was only after Empretec training that I thought of resuscitating the chicken project”.

Asked on why boshveld instead of broiler or roadrunner chickens, his response was “I wanted something different. Everyone is keeping broilers and roadrunners do not have a lot of meat. Hence I thought of boshveld chickens.” He further explained that boshveld chickens lay for a longer period. Buying in batches starting in February 2019, he bought a total of 232 one-day old bushveld chickens. Through Business Advisory and mentorship sessions Mahlalela was alerted on the shortcoming of the old fowl run. His explanation for constructing a new fowl run was that since his vision is to become a reputable chicken farmer, he mobilized resources from profits earned in the ICT business to channel towards constructing a bigger and up-to-standard fowl run for the chicks that were growing bigger by the day. Five months down the line, the chicks have grown to be 100 layers and 132 cocks. He sold 80 of the cocks at an average of ZWL$60 each earning $4920 and remained with 52. In September the layers started laying an average of 45 to 52 eggs/day. He explained that it should be noted that these chickens are at different levels and hence not all have reached laying age.

Through good planning Mahlalela noted the need for a hatchery. He then applied for funding using an opportunity to access finance through the ABC programme and was funded to the tune of ZWL$5540 to purchase an Incubator. Asked on why he purchased the incubator Mahlalela explained that it was a move towards achieving his vision “To supply eggs and chicks”. He further explained that his aim is to supply community with fertilised eggs, produce one-day old chicks and provide incubation services for other youths in the ABC programme as well as other community members who are into poultry production. Asked on which component of the business is making more money between ICT and poultry production? His answer was “At the moment ICT is still making more money, but poultry will eventually be the cash cow. My passion now is with the chickens. I wish to have my own brand of chickens”Mahlalela and wife have committed themselves to the success of the business.

They have worked hard between the poultry business and the ICT shop. Asked on how they cope with the workload Mahlelela mentioned that due to the expansion, he has employed two permanent male workers. In addition to poultry production he has joined the ABC contract farming scheme where he is farming carrots. Identifying his zeal for growth and access to bigger markets, he formally registered his business early in 2019. The business is known as P. Mahlalela Enterprises PBC.

EXTRA inspires positive change for youthful women farmers in Kwekwe: Chipo Nyamadzawo'story

Chipo Nyamadzawo, aged 23, exudes confidence as she speaks to the guests who visited her home in Tapera village Kwekwe district. She proudly shows off her 25 Boschveld chickens she bought using her lunch and dinner allowance she received after being trained in Micro- Entrepreneurship in Zhombe by Empretec. For the young farmer, the decision to join the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) in 2018 has been a game changer. Prior to her participation in LFSP, Chipo faced challenges securing formal employment. The shortage of opportunities also led her to believe that she did not have avenues for securing a decent livelihood. Following her involvement with the programme, she embraced agriculture as an avenue to success. Her outlook on life and her prospects also changed significantly. When interviewed, Chipo, had this to say about herself.

“I have heard people saying that farming is for old people, I can safely say that farming is a source of employment for youths. “I know there are people who say there are no jobs. I have also tried getting formal employment but there are no jobs in the market. I have realized that agriculture is the key to a better life. I will continue expanding my poultry business and value addition as l have formed a Horticulture group with other eight youths in my village. We also get a balanced diet as a family as we produce most of what we need. LFSP has taught us to eat healthy and we are doing just that.”

Her source of inspiration is from her mother who is a Community Based Mobiliser in the LFSP Program and is also into poultry production. Chipo's vision is to assist her family to buy a submersible pump, a solar system and a storage tank to ensure uninterrupted water supply for the horticulture and poultry enterprises she is involved in.

“My knowledge about farming has improved greatly, since becoming a member of EXTRA Project. I got a plan for a fowl run structure from LFSP and have seen an improvement in my fowl enterprise. The chickens that I keep are multiplying faster and growing much quicker. I was using a temporary housing structure, prior to the new structure and I am seeing that my birds are now very secure. I contributed about US$40 for the structure and it was a very wise decision and it is worth the investment,” added the youthful farmer.

The chickens serve a dual purpose, meeting the family's dietary needs and generating extra income for the household. “We slaughter some of the chickens for consumption as a family. Beef is quite expensive and we cannot afford it. We eat meat once or twice a week, making it very expensive to eat beef regularly,” added Chipo who lives with seven other family members.

The story of Chipo Nyamadzawo is a very good example of how young people can be productively engaged in agriculture, generate income for themselves and contribute to the national economy. This is particularly important for Zimbabwe with a high rate of youth unemployment. The Livelihoods and Food Security Program's initiatives is a sustainable vehicle for youth engagement in agriculture since it addresses farmer training and extension, access to diverse and nutritious foods, access to rural finance as well as markets for inputs, services and outputs. The innovative and labour saving technologies promoted by LFSP make agriculture attractive to the youths, who can choose lucrative value chains to pursue. The programme is contributing to employment creation and economic empowerment for rural youths.  

I got a plan for a fowl run structure from LFSP and have seen an improvement in my fowl enterprise. The chickens that I keep are multiplying faster and growing much quicker. I was using a temporary housing structure, prior to the new structure and I am seeing that my birds are now very secure. I contributed about US$40 for the structure and it was a very wise decision and it is worth the investment,”

- LFSP - Extra