Tapiwa Giwa is a young urban farmer and part-time accounting consultant. We caught up with him to learn how he decided to turn a piece of idle land into a productive urban farm in New Marlborough, Harare.
How did you initially get started farming and what do you grow?
After trying a series of small businesses and struggling to grow any of them, I decided to utilise a 500 square metre space at the back of our house to grow horticultural produce. Deciding to invest in that tiny piece of land was the easy part, the investment was relatively low with a fair return on my investment. Due to space constraints, I have grown one crop at a time in order to keep producing commercial volumes. So far I’ve been able to grow: cauliflower, red onions, lettuce, red peppers and oyster mushrooms.
What motivated you to get into farming?
My goal was to learn and grow as a business person. One of my main motivations was my interactions with other horticultural produce farmers, who encouraged me to get started and gave me ideas for what to grow in my field. I have researched every crop I have grown and learned how to produce it at a good quality.
What's your educational background?
In high school, I studied agriculture, as one of my subjects. Everything I still remember from my studies has helped me get a smooth start with my farming business. I am also studying to become a Charted Accountant (CA). This has been useful, as I have been able to start my small farming business on a strong and professional accounting system. I have also received training from the University of Zimbabwe Crop Science Department on how to grow oyster mushrooms, which has proved to be very helpful.
What’s your daily routine?
To manage my daily work routine, I use a production schedule to manage my cultivation, planting, watering and harvesting schedule and to ensure I supply the right produce at the right time, in the right condition.
Personally, I make use of my diary to plan most of my movement and to synchronise my produce schedule with other commitments such as studying and having a part time accounting consultancy job.
Currently, I work closely with a friend of mine, who is very experienced in mushroom production. However for all the other produce I do most of the work myself, occasionally hiring some people to assist me with cultivation, harvesting, and other work.
What lessons have you learned during your journey?
My farming business has taught me ‘patience in business’ and also the benefit of ethical farming practices such as using organic substitutes for fertilisers. I have learned how to interact with various market participants and understand their needs from my farming business. I have managed to work well with various people such as shop buyers, supermarket shop managers, agronomists, young as well as established farmer organisations such as the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU).
What are the challenges have you faced as Zimbabwean farmer?
Honestly, most of the challenges I have faced have been due to my own mistakes in my learning process. For example not having a tax clearance certificate and getting charged a 10% withholding tax when I supply my produce.
The Zimbabwean consumer is very quality sensitive and that has encouraged me to produce the best fresh produce possible. Zimbabweans seem to respect the contribution of farming to the nation and I guess that’s one of the reasons I haven’t faced any serious challenges being a Zimbabwean farmer.
What differentiates you from other farmers?
What differentiates me from other farmers is that I'm punctual, consistent with supply and my produce is of good quality.
What's your best advice for other emerging farmers?
Regardless of whether you are young or established farmer, you just have to be as professional as possible and understand and respect the end consumer's needs.