The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
IN 2016, Emma Nxumalo’s CV was languishing on the trays of various companies around the country.
The bubbly radio personality had initially taken up the task of hunting for a job with vigour but now each snub was draining her. The job market, it seemed, was now receptive of her charms but giving up was not an option. There were bills to be paid and mouths to be fed.
As companies rejected or ignored her applications, Nxumalo had a radical plan: if bosses continued to deny her employment, what prevented her from becoming her own boss?
“In 2016 I had applied to every company that you can think of and I did not get any job. So, that is when I decided that let me be my own boss and do the employing. Everyone was expecting to go into the beauty industry but I met this lady who used to deliver vegetables to my house and so I asked her how she did it. She told me that the first thing that I needed to separate me from the rest of the field was to get a car so I could do deliveries,” he said.
Nxumalo’s period under her preferred vendor’s wing would only last two weeks as it ended in tragedy. From that tragedy and heartbreak, Nxumalo’s now trademark Zwide Veggies would be born.
“Fast forward to two weeks later and her husband came to deliver vegetables to me and I asked him where she was and he just started crying. He told me that she had passed away and that is when I decided that let me get into this business, if not for myself but for her because she believed in her business so much. It’s sad that I can’t share what’s happened since then with her but that’s how Zwide Veggies was born,” she said.
Nxumalo is part of a revolution that has swept the country as Zimbabweans realise the lure of agriculture. From Nicholas Zakaria, who ventured into tobacco farming when Covid-19 pushed artistes away from the stage last yearm to Insingizi’s Dumisani Ramadu Moyo, artistes have joined the agricultural revolution with gusto. For Nxumalo, Covid-19, as devastating as it has been, has brought its own fair share of blessings.
“I’m not going to lie and say Covid-19 has had a bad impact on the business. We have been the busiest during the lockdown. I think it is what has made me open a physical shop. The orders were now overwhelming and I needed a place where I could store the vegetables, a place where people can come and order without doing so online. At some point our site crushed. God would have to punish me if I said that Covid-19 affected me badly because it is what led to the opening of the physical shop,” she said.
Nxumalo, who initially rented a piece of land from a Zimbabwean expatriate in the USA, says she would still like to own a piece of land she could call her own. In the meantime, she told Sunday Life that whoever else who wanted to venture into her line of work needed to know that as soon as had vegetables in their grasp, they had to sleep with one eye open.
“My advice to people to come into the same line of business as myself is that there is no off day. Vegetables and fruits are perishables and you need to have a plan on how to push your sales. If you don’t, you will end up running a loss.
You will get produce and not sell it and it goes bad pretty fast. That was my problem in the beginning. You need to have a strong presence online. Most of our sales come from the online store. You need to slay your brand. You need to breath, sleep and eat your brand. You need to know what to do when things go to the left…this industry needs 100 percent from the owner. You need to be the one leading from the front. A lot of work goes into the business. It is draining and that is something that I won’t lie about,” she said.
For Simbarashe Chimbira, the presence of Covid-19 killed one passion while giving birth to another.
“The lockdown for me came as a blessing in disguise. That is when I decided that I would get into farming with all my might. Before the lockdown I was heavily involved with Hloseni Arts. Actually, people might think because we are quiet now the group has disbanded but that is not the case.
The group exists and is still very much alive. Due to the lockdown unfortunately avenues for the arts were closed and we could not meet. As a performing art group, the situation was rather difficult for us.
“We do traditional dance and it can get intense sometimes and we might need people to gather and practice which requires people to gather in their numbers and that is the problem that we faced especially at the beginning of the lockdown. That is when I decided that since things on the arts side weren’t moving, I should take another route and find another way I could survive in the meantime,” he said.
An orphan, Chimbira said he had been encouraged to full explore his passion for farming by a lady that had been nurturing him as he grew up.
“I saw that in my area that there is a cooperative in our area and I decided that since I’m a person who is interested in farming perhaps this is something that I could partake in. There was a woman who used to visit our home and she had seen that I’ve always been interested in farming.
“I’m an orphan and she has always been a person who looked after my welfare. She said if I was interested, she would fit me into the cooperative and that is how I became involved in farming on this scale.
“I have benefitted a lot and seen a lot. I wish that other young people could also join and venture into agriculture.
Trying and find some space to start your own thing. That little space that you get can get your life going. You can grow vegetables and earn a living from them,” he said.