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Solar expert turns farm into economic hub

07 Jul, 2019 - 00:07 0 Views
Solar expert turns farm  into economic hub Solar Engineer Tamuka Moyo’s 16 kilowatts commercial solar mini-grid system at his homestead on the outskirts of Zvishavane town in the Midlands Province

The Sunday News

Dumisani Nsingo in Zvishavane, Senior Farming Reporter 

AN enterprising solar engineer and new farmer from Zvishavane District in the Midlands Province, Tamuka Moyo (36) is envisaging turning his farm into an economic hub through harnessing and converting sunlight into electricity.

Born in Murowa Village under Chief Mazvihwa in a family of eight, him being the fourth born, Engineer Moyo reckons his upbringing was no bed of roses as he was brought up in a poverty-stricken family. 

Matters got even worse in 1998 when his father who was the breadwinner passed on while he was in Form Two.

Faced with a burden of fending for her children, his mother had no option but to rely on having some of his children temporarily adopted by well-wishers to enable them to complete their education.

“A certain family had to adopt me in order to finish my secondary education and the fact that I was being looked after by a well-wisher, I didn’t have (a career path) choice. After coming up with some passes at Ordinary Level I had to apply for a teacher training course,” said Eng Moyo.

He said his career as a teacher lasted six years,  thereafter he opted to pursue his own chosen career path leading to him enrolling for an Electrical Engineering course at Masvingo Polytechnic in 2011.

His decision to quit teaching was received with uttermost disdain by most of his family members who had seen him rescuing the family from the shackles of poverty with his mother even contemplating suicide.

“When I finished at Masvingo Poly a number of big mines wanted to employ me but I didn’t want to join any company thus I thought otherwise and set out to pursue solar engineering apart from electrical engineering,” said Eng Moyo.

In 2014, he was to enrol for a Degree in Solar Engineering at Atlantic International University in United States heralding the beginning of his own chosen career path and gateway to his livelihood.

“I wanted to pursue solar engineering apart from electrical engineering so I had to go to the USA to study solar and come back as a professional somebody. I did my practicals in India and that is when I realised something, that you cannot do renewable energy and also fail to do farming, the two are inseparable,” said Eng Moyo.

In 2017 he was allocated land under the Government’s land reform programme and set up a few solar panels for lighting as well as for pumping water for his one-cre horticultural project. He also started his company, Salvado Projects, which specialises in electrical installations and solar engineering.

“When I came back I drilled boreholes and set up solar panels, a small set-up, which could do home lighting and a little bit of water pumping for just about an acre for my horticultural project and out of that I did wonders. We had about 4 500 plants of tomatoes and we managed to get about US$17 800, our initial capital injection was
US$7 200. 

“So it was a worthwhile investment but it’s not like I wanted to do horticulture, it wasn’t my choice but I realised that farming was a calling because I love solar so much so that I can even forget my name but I can’t do without farming, it’s God’s calling. So you are talking to a farmer by God’s calling and also a solar technician by design, that’s the long and short of me,” said Eng Moyo.

To date the enterprising technician and farmer has set up a mini-grid solar system with a capacity of transmitting 16 kilowatts of electricity for irrigating his six-hectare horticulture project at his 18-hectare farm and household lighting.

He contends that farming is not all about cropping large tracts of land but it is more to do with embarking on intensive farming.

“I believe in what I term intensive farming, not extensive farming. In extensive farming we need vast pieces of land but our production will be very low but under intensive farming, it’s a small piece of land but very high production. I believe at this point of time I haven’t come to a point where I can say I have utilised this piece of land to its full capacity,” said Eng Moyo.

Apart from cropping tomatoes he also grows cabbages, onions and butternut, all of which are marketed at supermarket chains and vegetable vendors in Zvishavane’s Central Business District. 

He also runs a poultry project, which he intends to grow from the present production of 2 000 to 30 000 birds a month with droppings from the chickens being used as organic fertiliser. 

“We intend to produce 500 chickens a week. We also have an incubator with a capacity of hatching 1 700 eggs per given time and we will utilise this facility to offer services for other farmers but mainly we will be hatching for ourselves because per month we will need 30 000 birds per month. We use the chicken droppings as manure with organic fertilisers, one doesn’t expect poor absorption of nutrients by plants due to too much nitrification,” said Eng Moyo.

As part of achieving a fully integrated agricultural enterprise the solar expert has plans to invest in a fruit processing plant. 

“We also intend to produce our own water melon juice and onion juice which has plenty of health benefits as well as 100 percent orange juice, not a concentrate with orange flavouring including the guava juice. We are in the process of getting the machinery to produce all these juices including tomato puree. We will even move further to add value addition into some of the fruits by producing jam. Since we are not into citrus production we will be getting the fruits from those that are into production,” said Eng Moyo.

He said through use of solar energy and utilisation of organic fertilisers he has managed to cut on his cost of production while realising meaningful returns from his agricultural enterprise in contrast to farmers relying on electricity from the national grid and applying chemical fertilisers to improve the fertility of their soils.

“Solar is free, I usually do comparison with some farmers on their costs for diesel, generator maintenance, electricity bills of which in most of the time the electricity is not always available. 

“On my part electricity and water bills are zero but on their (other farmers) part production costs will be about 65 percent and only 35 percent will be what they share between themselves and their workers going into the next season,” said Eng Moyo.

The solar expert says his plant has excess energy to power six more homesteads and has even suspended using a wind turbine he set up at his homestead as another alternative source of energy. 

A wind turbine, or alternatively referred to as a wind energy converter, is a device that converts the wind’s kinetic energy into electrical energy.

“I use and waste power because I generate more than what I consume. If I had a grid I would be feeding into the grid but I don’t have that grid, so power is being wasted. I yearn for someone to partner me to tap power from me because I have the capacity to feed six more homes as my maximum consumption is about 12 kilowatts but at most I use around six kilowatts,” said Eng Moyo.

As part of attaining the farm-to-fork, the entrepreneur has started setting up a leisure centre comprising a braai area and a vegetable stall to be situated on the roadside of the Bulawayo-Masvingo highway. 

Plans of constructing an upmarket lodge with conference facilities are also underway. By so doing he would have managed to contain economic activities within his agricultural enterprise, turning his farm into a successful economic hub contributing towards the energy, agriculture and tourism sector.

The solar expert said the country is not effectively utilising solar as an alternative source of energy.

“The usage of solar power in Zimbabwe is very low, I can rate it at five percent. It’s only now that because of these increased power outages quite a number of companies and organisations and even individuals realised the importance of solar,” said Eng Moyo. 

@DNsingo 

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