As Zimbabwean agriculture goes through what can best be described as a tumultuous period due to the effects of climate change some believe nothing can be done. There’s a startup out there that completely disagrees with this notion. Unique farming Solutions is a startup based on a simple premise, if we are going to farm we must do it professionally. The agronomic consultancy works with farmers from vision to market. I caught up with a founding member Pamela Kamuzonda who answered some questions I had about the business, operating and it’s outlook.
The business was registered on 16 January 2018 and to date has built a client base of 2000 individuals. The business, built by qualified agronomists with industry experience is based on teaching and mentoring new and existing farmers important methods in farming that are not exactly public knowledge but are best practice. When you consider that for grains such as maize, wheat and corn Zimbabwe expects to yield around 4.5 tonnes per hectare while European farmers expect to yield 11 tonnes per hectare it’s easy to see the need for the company.
They completely build from the vision a farmer has for their business, assist with resource planning, offer soil testing, offer training to the staff, offer training to farm owners on the business of farming and value addition. Miss Kamuzonda stresses that for the most part farming in Zimbabwe is done in an amateur manner where critical processes such as soil tests are ignored, yet they have a heavy bearing on output. So the goal is to bring this education to farmers. The shakeup caused by land redistribution means that we have a lack of knowledge transfer from former to current farmers and essentially we have farmers reinventing the wheel. They offer ongoing support as well for clients this includes site visits and follow-ups.
Unique Farming Solutions is one of those special businesses we spoke about in the article on Zebras, they have a dual bottom line as they do have a goal of working with disadvantaged and vulnerable members of society, commendable in a time like this. Pamela herself speaks of her humble beginnings in business with glowing passion. After studying and being employed by SeedCo and moving on, eventually being retrenched due to due economic hardships and the general business environment, she found herself a single parent with no idea where to start from. After helping one person with her knowledge she reluctantly started to offer services to more people and eventually considered the idea of going into business.
No shortcuts, she emphasises. No shortcuts to great farming and the same approach in building the business. The business has a staff complement of five and all are agronomists. She laughs as she recounts how tough her late father was on her, he was a seasoned farmer and perhaps responsible for moulding Pamela early on. Pamela acknowledges that the challenges they specifically face have to do with being female-led and also being young in a business culture that respects masculinity and counts experience in years. As mentioned before Unique farming Solutions overcame this challenge by appealing to groups such as single parents, marginalised women and people living with disabilities.
Other initiatives aligned to this are the Unique farming Single mothers club which focuses on teaching women disciplines such as goat rearing which is changing the lives of people. To date, they have trained over 1500 people according to Pamela and there are certainly more to come. Operating a plot in Chegutu, they personally cite financing challenges as they would love to have professional irrigation but are forced to rely on shallow wells at present. Capitalisation and tooling challenges are cited by many farmers, understandable coming from where we’re coming from.
Pamela also spoke glowingly of the success they have experienced with their clients and some awards to go with it. She counts winning Best Agronomist from the Ruth Pasi foundation and Mudheni 2nd runner-up from Women in Agriculture Zimbabwe awards as great moments for her and the business. She echoed the sentiment that agriculture is extremely important yet underrated. They have a seminar coming up on Sunday with the detail below. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.