Farming has an unglamorous image across Africa even though Agriculture accounts for more than 30% of the continent’s GDP and employs more than 60% of its working population. But this outlook to Agriculture might be changing soon with new players, introduction of technology and an ongoing wide embrace by younger players in the sector. One of the new players into the agriculture sector is TEF 2016 entrepreneur Vitumbiko Zgambo from Malawi.
Growing up, Vitumbiko Zgambo says she always knew what she wanted to be – A VEGETABLE FARMER!!!!! At 10 years of age she had a headstart to agriculture by having a garden and nurturing this garden successfully. Growing up and joining the Horticulture industry as a lecturer and a trainer brought another desire for her she says “I realized what I wanted was not just being a Vegetable farmer, but a farmer who leads and teaches others by example. It hurt me to see an extension worker who buys vegetables when they are the ones advising people to grow their own food or to see extension workers be victims of weather effects and price variations in vegetables and yet they can do something about it.”
Realising the danger in going with the trend, in 2015 Vitumbiko started Mivi Farms, her own farming business – starting with a small garden where she would grow a variety of vegetables and sell to neighbors. Mivi Farms grows high value vegetables in Green Houses, practice irrigation farming to ensure supply of vegetables throughout the year and provides extension services to the surrounding communities.
In Africa, vegetables are highly consumed and are always in high demand and this brings a huge market for Vitumbiko. She has now expanded her services into vegetable delivery, taking orders and delivery of vegetables at request, she also set up Nyamphe’s fresh mart which is an outlet of the farm is in an urban area and is unique because it is the first of its kind in this location where people were used to buying vegetables at the market or in big supermarkets, but now have a fresh foods shop within their neighborhood.
Understanding social responsibility, Vitumbiko is developing other young farmers through a learning/training center that conducts entrepreneurship trainings to youths in the surrounding communities and links them up with financial institutions which can provide loans for start-up businesses. She recently engaged a group of women which she supports to produce vegetables under the supervision of Mivi Farms and then links them to market.
Vitumbiko says her biggest challenge has been changing the mindset of people “Being a graduate everyone expected me to be in an office and not in the garden and when I decided to open a fresh mart, in my area people didn’t understand the concept of buying vegetables in a shop rather than at the market. We still struggle with this especially since some of our products have a slightly higher price than the market due to packaging. An example is tomato and mustard. We sell our mustard cleaned and bundled and this is hard for people to appreciate that it contributes to the price of the produce.”
Being a part of the TEF Entrepreneurship Program she she says changed a lot about her business “It helped me become very bold and daring. The program helped my networking skills and gave me the opportunity to think beyond my imagination. The funding helped me increase my business. I got more farming land and that’s how I also opened the fresh mart. I moved from being a venture with one employee to about 20 employees.”
Beyond her current success Vitumbiko is remains passionate about teaching “People should be able to come and earn from what we are doing. So as a way of expansion, I am finally now going to establish a resource centre within the farm which will be a platform for learning, networking and sharing experiences with others. Last growing season I failed to construct a greenhouse due to other hurdles, I still plan to construct a greenhouse and diversify into livestock production.”
Mivi Farm can be reached on facebook – Mivi Agri Enterprises https://www.facebook.com/miviagrienterprises3/, email: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com or phone and WhatsApp +265-994-250-817