WHILE a number of young people complain that agriculture is hard and boring, 36-year-old Pardon Mhuri is playing an important role in shaping and influencing the direction of Zimbabwe’s future food security through his Mhuri Farming Company.
Like most developing countries, agriculture remains the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), attracting young people to agriculture is vital since agricultural activities provide employment and income for 60-70 percent of the Zimbabwe’s population, supplies 60 percent of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributes 40 percent of Zimbabwe’s total export earnings.
Being born and raised in a farming family, Pardon understood that farming was highly rewarding financially, if done properly. Soon after high school, he ventured into farming even though at the beginning, it was not for commercial purposes.
“Farming has always been in my blood, but the major challenge I had was lack of capital. When I had enough money to start farming I went back to agriculture with a determined heart,” Pardon told The Entrepreneurial Magazine.
“Am now commercially producing tobacco seedlings for other tobacco farmers. For this season I produced seedlings for 3000ha of tobacco which was purchases by tobacco companies and individual farmers.
“I have also acquired irrigation systems pivots, tractors and trucks. Besides Tobacco, I also farm maize, wheat, sugar beans and horticultural crops like onion and tomatoes. I supply grains to the GMB, then Sugar beans to schools and other food processing companies.”
The National Young Champion Farmer who started with only two hectares of tobacco is now leasing 900hecters of arable land and boosts of over 200 permanent employees and 165 casual workers. He is steadily expanding the Mhuri Farming brand.
Agriculture also contributes approximately 17 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
With people below the age of 35 constituting more than 50 percent of the country’s population, and given the country’s high youth unemployment rate, the agricultural sector offers huge potential for job creation.
Government sees the inclusion of the youth, in the agricultural sector as key in its efforts to plug the country’s food supply gap and to achieve food security at both household and national level.
“Having farming contribute to the country’s GDP it gives me satisfaction that I’m also contributing to the growth of my country as a young Zimbabwean,” the proud farmer said.
“I would like to encourage mostly the youth out there, to assist in building our nation through supporting agriculture. It’s never too late start somewhere and surely, we will assist our President in achieving vision 2030 and build our nation together through agriculture.”
Pardon added that there is a lot of hard work and determination needed in the agriculture business pointing out that lack of land is the biggest hurdle for young people who want to venture into farming.
“Unfortunately to date I have not yet acquired my own land, I am leasing 2 farms, currently one in Kasimure which is 100ha and Issa farm which is 800ha. The journey was not easy but as a person with a goal I remained focused and never gave up,” he said.
“To start this farming journey, I faced a lot of challenges, availability of resources was the greatest challenge. No banks were giving loans to farmers and for anything you had to fund yourself. I had no irrigation and totally relied on the rains and climatic changes were also a challenge but these things happen naturally and cannot be controlled.
“Availability of farming tools was also a challenge, unlike today the government through Agribank is giving out tools which can be paid over a time frame. During the time I started, these support schemes were not available.”
The hopeful award-winning farmer has since incorporated horticulture and now targeting the export market. He encouraged those who have started to never give up, but to keep pushing forward, adding that farming is not limited to growing crops but expands to piggery, goats, chickens and cattle rearing.