Holding her own in Sustainable agri-food systems

Holding her own in Sustainable agri-food systems

By Caroline Chiimba

Teverai Chigogo-Nhapi is the owner of a 101 hectares farm in Darwendale in Zvimba District. She took an interest into mixed farming as a sustainable agribusiness venture. The enterprising farmer does poultry, beef cattle, pigs, maize, sunnhemp, chia, sweet potatoes and general horticulture.

“Having grown up a rural girl, the only thing that I knew was the soil,” Teverai broke the ice to the Agric, Food and Beverages (AFB) vision magazine.

“My greatest inspiration came from my mother, a divorced single mother who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had to relocate to the rural areas with us, where no other business was viable save for farming.

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“It is through working the land that she managed to send us all to school, my eldest sister went to Madzongwe Presbyterian, which was a very prestigious school in those days and this really inspired me. When I reflect back, I see the joys of hard work, and the true saying that if you put something in the ground, the ground is not mean, it will give back.”

Today the mother of four stands proud as an achiever in the agri-sector as she has been involved in the women’s economic empowerment space for more than 20 years. She has represented the country regionally and internationally.

Research has shown that the influence of women is strong in the use of eggs, milk and poultry meat for home consumption and business, cognisant to this fact, Teverai together with other women founded the Zimbabwe Women Poultry Farmers Trust, which she headed as the Founding Chair.

“We managed to successfully run a number of advocacy projects, amongst which was the Poultry regulations of 2012. It was during this time that I was selected for the Sino-Zim Poultry Genetics training program in China as well as the African Women Entrepreneurship Programe, IVLP (USA) nomination,” Teverai told the AFB magazine.

“I attended women’s economics empowerment programs globally as a result of the efforts I did put both as a woman farmer and as an advocate for the rights of women in agriculture in particular, and in enterprise in general.”

The proud farmer has six chicken runs accommodating 10 000 broilers each and has a joint venture for breeders with Broylay.

“I also had a 185 herd of cattle and have scaled down to 67 due to lack of pastures, our farm is only 101ha and we failed to accommodate these huge numbers,” she said.

The proud farmer shed more light on her farming style (mixed farming), a type of farming which involves both the growing of crops and the raising of livestock, amplifying how the livestock enterprises are complementary to crop production so as to provide a balance and productive system of farming.

She reiterated how advantageous it is as it reduces dependence on external sources like fertilizers because the crop and animal components in the farm support each other.

“Mixed farming is a cycle that doesn’t need to be broken, otherwise you end up losing money along the way. Our cattle feed on the chicken manure, it’s a very good supplement for cattle.  Also remember, it normally takes us about 2-3 years before we sell our cattle, so if you don’t have other produce, crops or fast-growing animals you will struggle with cash flows,” Teverai highlighted.

“You will also notice that farm workers depend on their employer for their day-to-day livelihoods. Thus, you also need to have a garden, milk, maize amongst other things for the workers’ welfare. This will be for both, rations and selling because being a farmer also means you have to be responsible, creating employment opportunities for the local community.

“Our markets are mainly local. We sell most of our cattle to Koala Park jn Chitungwiza. We also used to sell our chickens to Koala Park, Surrey, Drummonds and a number of other big poultry establishments. Our horticultural produce is absorbed by the locals and Mbare Musika.

She added that the markets are however prone to challenges, with farmers always on the receiving end, while also highlighting major challenges in getting capital as a woman.

“Imagine buying all inputs at seller price and selling everything at buyer price. There are times when you sell your produce at a loss, not even breaking even. Some of the value chains are very much controlled by gangs of oligopoly and some monopolies, this makes life so difficult for us as farmers,” she said.

“Financing obviously is a major issue. Without security to your name as a woman makes it very difficult. I have been very fortunate thou that I have managed to secure loans for my business through our properties, but remember, the decision is not spontaneous, it’s a process. You need to convince the head of the house, before you even convince the bank.

“Farming is not a stroll in the park. Farming is a business. You have to be a very strong character. Agriculture cuts across all sectors, and you will be forced to negotiate with men, who will, half the time try to size you up because you are a woman.”

The mother of four added that despite some of the setbacks that are experienced in the sector, agribusiness is awash with opportunities, especially for the youths, advising them not to just look at the land, or primary production, but opportunities in the value chain (Inputs, processing, distribution).

Seeing a business gap in the field of agriculture, Teverai has diversified into production to liquid fertiliser distribution.

“I see myself becoming a giant in this space as there are still very few people in this space. I also see this as a means of giving back to the environment as we encourage responsible use of our land, through use of organic fertilisers,” she said.

“I am also a Business Development Services Provider. It has always been my dream to see people prosper. Small businesses in general need a bridge to ride on for their success.  They need consultancy services which are broken down to their level, and that is what we are offering.

“My life as a farmer has been very dynamic. I feel I have been very successful in this journey.  The challenges I faced as an individual made me realise how important it was to come together and approach issues as a team.”

Despite her humble background, Teverai did a secretarial course after she got married, worked for Barclays Bank Kwekwe and The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. She is married to Professor Nhapi, a mother of four, and a proud grandmother of two. Academically and professional she holds a Bsc in Management and Entrepreneurial Development, a Diploma in Banking and part Diploma in Personnel Management and many certificates.


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