By Joyce Mukucha
For the past years, Zimbabwe’s economy has been deteriorating with its population facing an extraordinary and multidimensional crisis.
Many, especially young people have become victims to the economic meltdown that has seen companies closing and investors leaving in droves with an estimated three million Zimbabweans having crossed the Limpopo River into South Africa as a matter of survival.
According to statistics, more than nine million face serious food shortages; maternal mortality has tripled since the mid-1990s to date with outbreaks of epidemics killing thousands of people.
Due to the challenging environment currently prevailing in the country, young people are striving to find innovative spark solutions that can fire up their business leading them to become important stakeholders in the global agriculture market.
The main thrust for young people venturing into agri-business is to try and fight poverty, unemployment, and difficult times so that they can survive and sustain themselves.
As a way of empowering and enhancing rural centres and promoting entrepreneurship through agriculture, a young, brilliant and a dedicated woman – Evangelista Kudzai Chekera, who is the founder and Managing Director of Passion Poultry has seen it imperative to work with young farmers especially females through extending to them training programmes that can help them to showcase their poultry farming related items and innovations and sustain themselves in an unstable economy.
In an interview, Chekera told Spiked Online Media that agri-business and entrepreneurship have become the new normal and those that are embarking on this journey with a clear method and strategy are reaping the rewards.
She highlighted that her focus and passion was aimed at helping young farmers particularly women dealing in poultry production with a deliberate focus on free-range farming and extending to broilers and layers production with much attention being given to those in remote areas who seem to be marginalised and excluded when it comes to expertise programmes.
“What I have actually managed to do so far is that in 2019, I trained about 170 young people in terms of poultry related items for example how to properly take care of chickens, layers, broilers, and road runners as well as to showcase their poultry innovations that can actually ease their rearing process.
“The reason why I’m doing this is that I have realised that everything happens in Harare. It seems like it is the hub for every innovation and nothing much takes place in remote areas and other provinces. So we are aiming at disseminating information in other provinces so that they can also be able to sustain themselves through agripreneurship,” she said.
According to research by the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (IED), innovation is part of entrepreneurship and agripreneurship cannot fall behind. Value chains, IED indicated, work the best but without innovation, local farms will not be able to flourish.
Of the approximately 170 trained young people who want to pursue projects related to poultry and escape poverty, 55 to 60 percent were women and most of them were below the age of 35.
As a young lady with the welfare of other women at heart, Chekera’s passion is to see every young person’s skill being turned into a livelihood.
In as much as 2021 plans are concerned, Chekera is determined to set up demo plots especially on women-owned farms and at least five of those are targeted in five provinces.
“So far I have managed to partner with Gracious Shonhai who is a goat farmer in Masvingo and she is currently building structures for the demo plot. What I’m going to do is give her assistance on how to properly build the infrastructure as well as imparting to her technical knowledge on how to carry out the project as well as to strategise so that she can be able to sustain the project as a whole.
“I have actually also got another lady in Mashonaland East (Marondera) who is willing for us having a demo plot that side and this will also assist young women and people in general,” she added.
To ensure that young people are thoroughly equipped with skills, Chekera said Passion Poultry was anticipating to host a Poultry Indaba in September this year. This is aimed at guaranteeing that young people and women within the community can go there and learn how to properly manage their poultry projects.
Last year, Chekera also managed to teach a couple of students from South African Universities that are part of Women in Engineering Fellowship where she taught about agriculture innovation.
“These ladies were working on their innovations on how to make it agriculture and how to make it sustainable. So I did teach them a couple of stuff to focus and look on pertaining their innovations,” she said.
As someone who is passionate about young people’s empowerment, Chekera is also making a concerted effort to ensure that young people from local universities and colleges are given a chance to showcase their talents.
” I also managed to take two interns, one from National University of Science and Technology and Harare Institute of Technology who are also working on innovations on how to carry out projects. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, these students have nowhere to apply what they are learning in school so I thought it would be great extending to them an opportunity to showcase their talents.”
Chekera highlighted there is a bright light ahead pertaining training women in agri-business as she revealed that she has been also approached by the Apex Council for Youth in Agriculture to be part of the council as they want her to take charge in farmer education in technology for youth in agriculture.
Passion Poultry was established on the 1st of September 2016 by Evangelista Chekera. Since its establishment the company has partnered with local poultry feed companies, poultry retailers and farmer groups who assist in distributing its equipment.
The organisation sells equipment like, slaughtering cones, chick brooders, broiler and chick heaters, chick brooder rings, layer cages and incubators that have helped bring life to a trade that had for a long time been trivialised by small scale farmers making their work smarter,convinient and faster.