Mrs. Gracious Makoti of plot 56 Alabama in Kadoma talks with Emerging Farmer contributor Gugu Nyazema. She shares how she transformed a piece of land that had nothing on it into a fully-productive farm and also built a beautiful home. She is a mother of four and has worked very closely with her husband in the process.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
Well, my husband and I are both former nurses. My husband was a nurse more solid for the army. Together we have four children, two boys, and two girls. The first boy is currently completing his degree in agriculture at a local university. He is very interested in helping out the family as well as starting his own thing on the side. My second daughter is married, making me a grandmother, (she smiles). The third born is a girl and she is a cadet in the army and my last son is currently in Form Three.
How did your farming journey start?
Four years ago, my husband retired and got his retirement package. We decided to move to Alabama, Kadoma and start farming after being encouraged by other farmers around us. We had been given six hectares of land by the government through the land reform programme.
So with my husband’s retirement package we decided to invest in the farm. We had to drill a borehole because there was no water nearby. We also had to buy a transformer, so that we could get electricity. As we talk about it now, this may sound like it was easy but it was a long process. We would buy things bit by bit, and pile them up. All this was expensive for us, but we persevered because we knew we needed to do something to survive. And farming was the only way. Like they say each journey starts with a single step. So step by step we grew.
Now that things are in place, we now have a crop of maize, soya beans, and tomatoes. We sell them locally to people around us and also as far as Gokwe and Bulawayo. We have established networks that work through word of mouth.
What was the catalyst for you to becoming a farmer?
There is a widow in our area called Mrs. Chaora. She kept pushing us to utilize our land. So my husband and I didn’t want to disappoint this lady who has become a very good friend of ours. So I can safely say that was our main driver.
How did your educational and training background assist you in starting your own farming business?
My training taught me to do things wholeheartedly. You know when you are dealing with patients you have to be compassionate, kind and understanding. You cannot have half your mind here and the other half of the mind there. I can safely say that’s is what I applied to farming. I am 150% committed, no half jobs.
What lessons have you learned on your farming entrepreneurial journey so far?
Farming is a hands-on job, for things to work you have to be on the ground supervising and seeing what is happening. Remote management over the phone never works. My husband and I experienced this first hand. When we were in town working and had workers on the farm managing things of us. We never saw the fruits of the money we had invested. But when we began doing it ourselves, we started earning more than we have ever earned working remotely.
What are the challenges you face as a Zimbabwean emerging farmer?
ELECTRICITY!!!! That is a big challenge for us right now. Another challenge is that we as farmers don’t get support from the banks because we don’t have the collateral. I wish things would change because as farmers we have a lot to offer given the chance.
What advice would give other farmers?
Let’s work as a team and copy one another if need be. Sharing information is very important, it is important to keep learning.