19 June 2017

Zimbabwe: Meet Farmer Extraordinaire Ziki

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Growing up in a rural setting, farming had always been among the prime activities 50-year-old Tinashe Ziki took part in. His interest stemmed further than the average communal dweller and on occasions he would ask for neighbours' space to plant on. Passion drove him from being an average peasant farmer into one of the largest commercial farmers in Zimbabwe.

With a tale that signifies true calling, Mr Ziki is among the best performing farmers in the Government led Command Agriculture this season.

"I grew up in a farming family in Hurungwe, where we used to work hard in the fields. That is when I took a deep interest in farming and how it could be a source of income for me," he said.

A trained electrician by profession, he worked in the technical fraternity for a while before he made a total switch in 1996.

"From 1992 when I graduated as an electrician, I was working at Zesa. Despite having a job, I kept on farming at our rural areas," he said.

For four years Mr Ziki kept playing dual roles until a bumper harvest changed his career direction.

"In 1996 I provided about 176 tonnes to the Grain Marketing Board, I am sure they have it in their archives. That is when the Zimbabwe Farmers Union approached me with a tractor buying facility and I got my first tractor, a Fiat New Holland 65 Horsepower," said Mr Ziki.

The pressures of being a farmer and full-time employee proved too hard for him and he quit his job.

Mr Ziki's dream got a boost when the land reform programme commenced and he applied for farming space.

"In 2000 I applied for land and I was allocated a farm here in Mhangura which was about 100 hectares. From the 100 hectares only about 20 hectares was arable," he said.

After four years of continued perseverance, he got an offer letter for a bigger space after his decent yields had made him a worthy recipient of the 200-hectare Hybury farm.

It was around this period that his bank advised him to register his farming activities as a business for less constraints in doing business.

"That is when I opened Fortune Drive Enterprises and turned my operations into a business. Since then I have not looked back," said Ziki.

The move has helped him access loans, a challenge bedevilling most farmers.

Even after getting a bigger piece of land, Mr Ziki did not leave the principle he used to operate with when he was still farming on his family space in Hurungwe.

"I continued sourcing more land to farm on. I did not want to be comfortable with the 200 hectares I had been given.

Right now I work on a total of 1 100 hectares, 900 of which we access through a contract arranged by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development," he said.

His prowess has seen agriculture entities jostling to work with him.

When The Herald visited his farm together with the visiting Namibian delegation from Kavango region on a partnering tour with Mashonaland West, he had just received good news.

His biggest seed supplier, SEED CO was doing a crop assessment and they concluded that he scored quite high.

The evaluations are part of a competition they are running.

According to one of the assessors Mr Ziki's yield is above average.

"We measured a 1 hectare block and harvested with a combine harvester. The grain was weighed and he got between 17 to 21,3 tonnes per hectare," Mr John Bhasera, the SEED CO head of agronomy said.

The seed variety he was using does not yield less than 13 tonnes per hectare but it takes a special farmer to push the yield to more than 20 tonnes per hectare.

Mr Ziki said his yield is a product of diligence and thorough agricultural practice.

"I have made it a policy to send my soil samples to labs and ensure that I am well informed on the components that are required in the soil.

"I consult experts on all things I do not understand," he said.

His yield has grown to the point that he has installed silos on his farm for quick drying and safe storage.

"When we want to work on a winter crop, we harvest our maize early and the silos come in handy because they facilitate fast drying and storage," said Mr Ziki.

With 1 100 hectares of maize, Mr Ziki described the $390 per tonne being offered by the Grain Marketing Board as a blessing.

"That price to be honest with you is the best we can get in this country. It is motivating to be well rewarded for your hard work. I have no complains as I feel it is fair and matches the effort that we put in this year's crop," Mr Ziki said.

There is nowhere in the world where farmers can sell at that price," he added.

His operation is demanding, a reality which saw his wife Mrs Pamela Ziki leaving her accounting job to co-manage the farm.

"I had to resign where I used to work so that I could help out. I am now well versed with the business to the point that I steer the ship every time my husband travels out of the country," she said.

Mrs Ziki conceded that agriculture is a capital intensive trade.

"Most of our work is automated, we get our planters and harvesters programmed in South Africa. This ensures that when we work on our fields we do not damage the crop. Subscriptions are paid yearly and they are not cheap," she said.

She credited their small and manageable team as the reason behind their effectiveness.

"We have 21 workers here and they are really easy to manage as well as remunerate. It is pointless to have a lot of workers you cannot take care of," she said.

When the Namibian delegation toured his farm, it was left impressed by his prowess.

Governor for Kavango region, Dr Samuel Mbambo who is an equivalent to a Provincial Minister in Zimbabwe showered the farmer with praises.

"What we have seen here is a product of empowerment. Here is a young farmer who is doing phenomenal work dispelling misconceptions that farming is for old retired people," he said.

He hinted on bringing young Namibians from his regions to learn from the man.

"We have an operation in Namibia called Hwerengwenje which is almost similar to Command Agriculture. This farm would be a good example to the young people we want to be involved," Dr Mbambo said.

Mr Ziki is a farmer of high repute, people in the agricultural sector say when he signed up for Command Agriculture those who supply farming inputs felt the pinch.

He is among the men working flat out to ensure that Zimbabwe is food secure, even in the past dry seasons he says he did not get less than nine tonnes per hectare.

With an insatiable penchant for growth, he is promising to replicate his high yield when he gets to harvest the winter wheat he is now working on.

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