FAO in Zimbabwe

Youthful farmer reaps benefits from taking farming as a business

Desire and his brother showing the profit margins for maize grown during the 2017 cropping season

Desire and his brother showing the profit margins for maize grown during the 2017 cropping season.

Desire Sibanda, 28, exudes confidence as he speaks to guests who had visited his home in Kwekwe district, about 300km from the capital, Harare. He proudly shows his recently completed house, a deep well with a submersible pump and reservoir tank, a flourishing garden and orchard, lush maize, sorghum and sweet potato crops and several chickens.

For the young farmer, the decision to join the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) in 2015 has been a game changer.   

“I have heard people say that farming is for poor people. I agree but add the statement that it is for poor people so that they get rich. I can safely say that I am rich as I can afford to feed myself and my wife throughout the year. I also get a balanced diet as I produce most of what I need. LFSP has taught us to eat healthy and we are doing just that.”

The energetic and eloquent farmer said farming had become his source of employment and had intentions to employ other people in future.

“I know there are people who say there are no jobs, I have also tried getting formal employment as I possess a class two driver’s license. I have realized that agriculture is the key to a better life. I will continue expanding my business and start my own shop where I will sell some of my farm produce. I will also create employment as I will need other people to assist me with the business,” said Desire.

The 2016/17 farming season was very successful for the farmer who grew maize and sweet potatoes. Desire managed to buy a submersible pump, a generator and a storage tank to ensure uninterrupted water supply for his crops. He used part of the money to drill a 30 metre deep borehole which is used to water the vegetables as well as provide clean and safe water for a number of households within his village.

Proper planning pays off

According to Desire farming is not about grappling in the dark but one has to undertake a serious analysis before venturing into a crop. This, the farmer said, was emphasised in the trainings that they attended under LFSP. The result is that they plan on the type of crop, the quantities and the timing so that they get maximum returns. They also do simple analyses to calculate the gross margins, to inform choice of crop for the next season. The young farmer keeps records of all farm activities, another lesson learnt from the trainings under LFSP.

Desire recently married and used proceeds from his farming business to finance the wedding. Chickens which were consumed on the wedding were all from his farm. The couple were recently blessed with a baby who Desire said will be provided for through proceeds from the farming business.

“I have improved greatly, (since becoming a member of LFSP), I got a plan for a fowl run structure from LFSP, and I have seen an improvement in my fowl enterprise - the chickens and guinea fowls that I keep are multiplying faster and growing much quicker. I was using an ordinary room, the open space and trees prior to the new structure and I am seeing that my birds are now very secure.  I used about US$120 for the structure and it is a very wise decision and it is worth the investment,” added the farmer.

The chickens and some guinea fowls serve a dual purpose: meeting the family’s dietary needs and generating extra income. “We slaughter some of the birds for consumption as a family. A single bird is enough for one meal for the entire family. We alternate between the guinea fowls, chickens and rarely turkeys or goats. Beef is quite expensive and we cannot afford it. We eat meat once or twice weekly, making it very expensive to eat beef so regularly,” added Desire who lives with nine other family members.

Young farmers emulating Desire

Other young farmers from within his village have emulated Desire with equally impressive results. One such farmer is Abigail Nyoni, who is also a mother. Abigail said she was able to take care of her children because of the information she got from the study circle.

“I decided to join the study circle after I realised that I would benefit from the information shared through the group. I have used this information to make decisions on what to plant and how to market. This guided me last year when I grew tomatoes. The proceeds from the sale of tomatoes has seen me sending children to school and buy other things they need,” said Abigail.

She added that her wish was to grow the business and also buy livestock as a cushion should anything bad happen to her tomato farming.

Desire and the fellow young farmers use the study circle approach to discuss their farming businesses. The study circle approach is another approach that was introduced by a consortium of partners under the banner EXTRA and comprising WHH, CTDO, We Effect, ICRISAT and Heifer International under LFSP.

The story of Desire Sibanda 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 Programme funded by UKAid’s DFID, and managed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as well as Palladium, is a suitable 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 and outputs. The innovative and labour saving technologies promoted by LFSP makes agriculture attractive to the youths, who can choose lucrative value chains to pursue. The programme is contributing to employment generation and economic empowerment for rural youths.