Young Farmer Chikwara make great strides in Horticulture and Aquaculture Sectors

Young Farmer Chikwara make great strides in Horticulture and Aquaculture Sectors

By Caroline Chiimba

According to the United Nations about 47 per cent of Zimbabwean men between ages 20 and 31 and 57 per cent of men in the same age bracket are into horticulture, growing fruits such as mangoes, involved in rearing livestock such as the prolific breeders Boer goats, and cultivating tobacco, corn and so on.

One Prosper Chikwara aged 29 is no exception. The young farmer who is currently based in Mzingwane, Matabeleland South, about 20km from Bulawayo is making waves through his Imbewu Farm, which he founded in 2016, specialising in horticulture and aquaculture.

Chikwara’s farming journey started in 2015 when he participated in a Moringa farming project on his family farm. The goal was to produce Moringa for animal fodder. The project was mildly successful and it instilled confidence in him to pursue farming as a career.

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“I wanted to get into goat farming, but I did not have the capital to get started. So, I tried potato farming, it flopped because I did not have the right information and adequate knowledge on the project I wanted to embark on,” Chikwara said.

“Lack of information and knowledge is another thing that make people fail besides lack of capital and land.  They say Knowledge is power, I lacked knowledge and I lost, I then went after knowledge and now I am winning. I have now equipped myself with knowledge and intelligence on production, logistics, marketing and there is still so much I need to equip myself though I can say I have made progress.”

Chikwara pointed out that as much as his false starts were painful as he kept on failing, he kept on pressing forward because of determination in 2017 he started to reap the rewards of persevering.

“The more research I did in the local farming industry, I discovered many things which would motivate me to take farming seriously. First, I noticed that a lot of produce in our local shops was coming from other regions of the country, or even as far as South Africa. This made me realize that a huge gap in production existed in our region. I knew that as long as I was organized, I would be able to exploit such gaps in the market,” Chikwara told The AFB Vision Magazine.

“Imbewu farm’s mission is to provide unique and wholesome produce that is enjoyable and sustainable. We work harmoniously with nature and the land to grow quality, specialty vegetables and indigenous meat.

Imbewu Farm produce

“The reason why we specialize in crops like onion, cabbages, tomatoes, vegetable and peppers is because of the high demand and market value especially in this part of the country. Many households use these crops more than once per day, hence our choice.”

He added that as a farm they have established market relations with almost every part of Matebeleland including Gwanda, Esigodini, Lupane, Plumtree and Victoria Falls. Their biggest market currently being Bulawayo followed by Victoria Falls along with Lupane. Chikwara said as a company they have been conducting surveys throughout the region to make contacts with various markets for their produce.

The 29-year-old was however quick to point at challenges posed by climate change.

“In my few years as a farmer I understand that the greatest challenge to food security is climate change. Over the years I have watched the rains gradually disappear, and the acute water challenges turn into an unparalleled crisis. Currently the city of Bulawayo is giving residents water for 12 hours a week. The region is facing its worst drought in modern history. Furthermore, boreholes are drying up. As farmers, we are called to innovate to ensure we mitigate all the challenges associated with climate change,” he said.

“As Imbewu Farming we have tried to mitigate risks through our farming practices whereby everything is calculated. We call this type of practice precision farming. We do everything that is recommended. On the technology side, we adopted drip irrigation which is more efficient and precise while saving up 30-35 percent of water.

“We are growing only hybrid seeds which are produced for specific climate and for a dry region like this one in Matebeleland, we go for the seeds that give us more yields and have good resistance to diseases. We have also put in place infrastructure that store water like the reservoir we have that stores up to 800 000litres.”

The enterprising farmer also diversified to focus on aquaculture because he wanted to have a bigger storage for water and also add value to that water in terms of nutrition while also getting money from that storage facility. He boosts of 8 pounds that can hold over 11 million litres of water and store a minimum of 80 000 fish. The farm also has three working boreholes which are able to yield up to 18 000litres per hour.

With all being said on combating the effects of climate change, Chikwara added that there is more to be done as they also look forward to put in place smart green houses and various irrigation methodologies that save water and return water into the soil.

“In terms of harvest, we have been very successful here at Imbewu farming. We normally do tomatoes throughout the year and then these other crops are there for crop rotation. We also diversified to aquaculture which is fish and in the year 2020 we produced 20 tons of fish and that was the best year of my life,” the proud youthful farmer said.

“The beginning of 2021 last year our cables were stolen and we were out of business for three to four months, but when we got back to business, we produced over 160 tons of tomatoes per hectare. We are hoping that 2022 will be a beautiful year in terms of yields.

 “I am a passionate young farmer, and I take tremendous pride in my horticultural work knowing that the fruits of my labour are feeding hundreds of families in my region. As a farmer, I know I contribute to the food security of the nation, and especially important task in my region given how prone we are to droughts.”

While Chikwara’s farming journey sounds like a bed of roses, he has encountered his far share of challenges along the way that all farmers face in the sector.

He narrated how capital is one bigger challenge for starting up farmers and even those who are already in the game, adding that while there is a lot that still need to be done at farms, most farmers are curtailed by lack of funds.

“The problem also is that even if am able to go and take a loan at the bank, its expensive. You will find that some other countries are loaning at 3-5 percent interest rate per annum, but here in Zimbabwe we are talking of 40 to 60 percent interest rate per annum. Already I will be digging my own grave. The loans are very expensive. We urge government to chip in and provide favorable interest rates. On capital, the government can link us up with investors,” Chikwara bemoaned.

“As profitable as farming can be, the infrastructural and equipment costs to maintain a smooth farming operation can be remarkably high. They often prove to be a significant barrier to entry.

“Currently, from what I make in sales I am able to fund my drip irrigation systems. I have also purchased solar panels for one of the boreholes. I would like to engage in smart farming by purchasing greenhouses. However, this requires a significant capital expenditure which I do not have. It is very difficult to tap into financial resources capable of funding capital expenditure, so I have to grow organically, which may take years considering the volatile economic landscape in Zimbabwe.”

Despite all the challenges that comes with farming, Chikwara believes that there is so much opportunities in agribusiness for young women and men to bring in technology and to lead, adding that in terms of sustainability, more young women and men need to incorporate themselves in the sector.

“When starting up, find something that you really want to do, if its grain, let it be grain, don’t change, if its goat breeding or cow breeding let it be that for years so that you become a master in your trade. Agribusiness is not limited to ploughing the land only, but one can find a niche,” Chikwara said.

“When the lockdown was introduced, I didn’t cry because I devoted myself to working hard and looking for markets. Difficult it was yes, but we persevered and now we are being recognised. I’m using ‘we’ plural because farming takes a collective effort. I have my family and employees who support me and so this is for all of us.

“Thus far my produce has only been sold on the local market. I understand there is a huge international horticultural market and I hope to penetrate markets like the European Union one day.”

The young professional farmer is optimistic and positive in total economic transformation through agriculture and technology.


One thought on “Young Farmer Chikwara make great strides in Horticulture and Aquaculture Sectors

  1. This is amazing and would want to replicate this as it is inspirational esp younger people. Well done and wish you all the best.

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