IT ALL started as mere friendship in high school for Tinashe Sithole, Noel Chibuka, Shingirai Mushonga and Shingirai Murerwa only for them to develop into business partners in their adult life, revolutionising the civil and agricultural industry through inspired, sustainable practical engineering solutions.
The quad’s innovativeness saw the birth of CIVAGRIEC Engineering consultancy, a company that offers design and technical support services to the agricultural community and built environment in Manicaland and beyond. CIVAGRIEC is introducing the first hand-powered baler on the Zimbabwean agric-machinery market as a means to produce livestock feed for small scale farmers.
“It is the birth child of a sustained conversation amongst peers on how to apply ourselves as young engineers/entrepreneurs. The conversation led to a collective conviction that we should establish our own enterprise and make use of the skills we had acquired both in life and in school,” Sithole, who serves as the company CEO told the Entrepreneurial Magazine.
“To date CIVAGRIEC has introduced the first hand-powered baler on the Zimbabwean commercial market. The baler enables livestock farmers to make their own stock feed (hay). This innovation is in line with a continental drive of improving agriculture in Africa through innovations in mechanisation.
“Currently we are offering low cost greenhouse structures to horticulture growers who practise aquaponics, hydroponics etc. Greenhouses provide protected and controlled environment for farming to counter harsh and varying weather conditions.”
Coming into picture late in 2017 and the quad formally registered as a private limited company in December 2019 and won 1st prize for the Most Innovative Business category in the 2019 GreenEnterprize Innovation Challenge run by the International Labour Organisation with financial support from the Swedish Government through their Embassy in Harare.
However, according to Murerwa who serves as the Marketing and Business operations manager, all was not rosy when they started. Their financial standing was restrictive as they were not able to do things according to their plans.
“Our major challenge was not being financially sound to be able to do everything that we intended and in the ways that we intended to. From the beginning we used our personal funds to support every need the business needed. At that point, none of us was making so much money individually that we could have enough capital,” Murerwa narrated.
“Our parents and relatives also started assisting us monetary wise and with resources until we entered the Green Enterprise 2019 Challenge run by the International Labour Organization and the Swedish Embassy and we won the 1st prize in the Most Innovative business challenge and got a USD$5000, which became our solid capital.
“The second challenge we faced was getting clients and having people trust that we can deliver on what we are advertising, as many people in Zimbabwe are skeptical with dealing with starting businesses. “
The quad expressed dismay in the discrimination young entrepreneurs face at times due to lack of adequate experience among seasoned players, adding the distrust has led to a cycle which if not disrupted would segregate the input of a whole generation.
“We were inspired to fight these tendencies and punch our way through. This inspiration stems from a recognition that without some drastic “action” our generation would lose out on an opportunity to positively contribute and effect meaningful change to society,” they said.
“We fight these tendencies by not shying away to engage with older generations. Young people stand to benefit from the depth of experience that they possess and require their guidance. So keep knocking on their doors until they are answer.
“We believe our action to brave the tough operating environment and establish a business enterprise offering relevant services and products to society would also inspire other young people who are sitting on their idea and pondering where to get support and what to plan.”
When the quad started operations, their baler production was initially meant to target small scale farmer in livestock production who are facing a shortage of stock feed and who cannot afford motorised balers. But to date, the CIVAGRIEC baler has become multisectoral with institutions such as municipalities, schools, churches and any property holders who have the potential to convert grass within their premise into a selling product (hay bales).
Project manager Noel Chabuka attests that the business has been growing at a good pace and the name CIVAGRIEC is fast becoming a household name associated with engineering and innovation especially in the agricultural and civil sectors.
The huge interest generated by their flagship product, the hand powered baler, has also triggered interest in the other fields of engineering that the company is engaged in, such as construction of greenhouses and solar dryers. The company is also being engaged in consultancy work with members of the team even being invited to speak on various platforms like the main news on ZBC TV.
“The company recently opened a metal and timber fabrication workshop in Mutare which is beginning to gain traction and generate more revenue for us. The best signifier of how the corporates have been responding to our rise can be seen in the 3 recent awards the company received from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and CSRNetwork, first on a provincial level where we were given the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Innovation awards, then on the national platform were we got the sustainability innovation award,”Chabuka said. Just like all other companies, CIVAGRIEC has not been spared by the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic on business operations. Potential clients are facing income problems and are cutting down on expenses, reducing the company’s clientele base. Despite the hurtles, the quad team has greater hopes for the future, and advised other entrepreneurs to be daring.