The Sunday News
Nobukhosi Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
WHILE agriculture forms an integral part of Zimbabwe’s economy, many young people used to think of it as a back-breaking business that offers little economic benefit and would prefer white-collar jobs.
However, things are slowly changing with a growing number of young people starting to see agriculture as a viable career option. Mr Lancelot Tafadzwa Matange (26) is among a new generation of agro-entrepreneurs who are invigorating the agriculture sector with innovative initiatives that brings agriculture in Zimbabwe on an upswing.
He is recognising the opportunity that farming offers for financial freedom. In 2020 he setup his company Agro Elite, a company that supplies a variety of vegetables to National University of Science and Technology (Nust) students in Selbourne Park, Riverside and other neighbouring suburbs. Through the help of his friends Michael David Manhivi and Zvikomborero Mziti, the trio has taken farming to greater heights. Mr Matange graduated with a degree in Civil and Water Engineering at Nust last year and decided to deploy his entrepreneurship skills by venturing into agriculture.
“I am an entrepreneur so I realised that there was a gap in the agricultural sector. I saw an opportunity to solve the problem that students at Nust were having where they had to travel to town to buy agro produce. I took advantage of an empty backyard space at my aunt’s place and started a garden where I planted a lot of vegetables. I started selling to other students and lecturers and they supported me tremendously,” he said.
He said with time and improved strategies the demand grew bigger than the supply and it was at that time that he knew he had to expand his project.
“I approached Mr Martin Mabvira who has land in Riverside and I told him about my vision in farming and he gave me the land, drilled a borehole and supported my vision. He is still helping and supporting me,” he said.
Mr Matange was motivated into farming by his father at the age of 12 and since then he has never looked back.
“I grew up in Daramombe Mission School in Chivhu. My father was one of the master farmers there and he was a hard working person who would go out into the rain to do his farming activities. He was really passionate about everything he did and that really motivated me and pushed my desire to take up farming. He used to give me and my three brothers a portion each so that we grow our crops and nurture them. I enjoyed that and it drove me to want to occupy a space in the country’s agricultural industry,” he said.
Mr Matange has made a name for himself as he has also started an online marketing platform for his produce, which has proved to be a success.
‘“griculture is not only about physical farming but there is also the marketing part which most farmers usually ignore. Most farmers have produce but they are not getting the correct value of what they have because they are not doing the proper marketing, at the end of the day all their hard work will be in vain. We introduced an online system where we engage with our clients, show them our produce and arrange for delivery depending on the quantity they want,” he added.
Mr Matange said his desire was to see young people in Zimbabwe taking farming as a business since it is the mainstay of the country’s economy.
“Farming is the way to go. Our economy is agriculture-based and there is enough land and good climatic conditions. Yes, there are questions about resources, capital but what I can say to young people is, just start. I only started on the backyard of my aunt’s place. Agriculture is broad. What is needed is to identify and close the gaps in all its value chains and with agriculture one will not go wrong be it keeping livestock, marketing as well as providing chemicals and irrigation systems for farmers,” he said.
However, Mr Matange said he faces challenges in his farming business as he doesn’t have transport.
“Since the business has expanded and there are a lot of customers, we sometimes fail to meet the demands of customers since we do not have a car or a motorbike to run around and supply customers in time. This has caused a strain in the business but hopefully when we manage to get funding we can look into that. Our aim is to feed the world and I believe that with enough support from the Government we can be able to do that and turn Zimbabwe into the breadbasket that it is,” he added.
Mr Matange said he has mastered the courage to knock at anyone’s door to ask for business opportunities.
“Farming has taught me patience, boldness and confidence. It has also made me a better person as I interact with nature more often. My communication skills have improved and I am not afraid to take chances and approach anyone for opportunities,” he said.
Mr Matange said this year he would be working towards embracing climate change through the use of water, energy and food nexus.
“As a civil engineer who is passionate about agriculture I need to see how best I can work on the food security of Zimbabwe, on climate change related topics concerning agriculture such as use of clean energy in agriculture, how we can manage water, energy and food to improve on our systems and mitigate effects of climate change on our agriculture. Let us not take agriculture for granted, but let us embrace it and restore Zimbabwe to be the breadbasket of Africa,” he said.