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Ex-teacher turns successful farmer

29 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
Ex-teacher turns successful farmer

The Chronicle

Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
WHEN Cde Perseverance Zhou enrolled to train as a teacher in 1984, she never dreamt of being a successful farmer, but two decades after benefiting from the Land Reform Programme in the Midlands Province, some riches have come her way.

Bean crop at Cde Perseverance Zhou’s farm

Cde Zhou, who is also the Zanu-PF Kwekwe Proportional Representation MP, has 150 hectares of land: 75ha under the centre pivot irrigation system, a 5ha gardening area, a 2ha orchard, piggery and fishery, maize crop on 60ha, horticulture on 5ha, 10ha under sugar beans and 2ha under cowpeas.

She employs 100 casual workers and around 40 permanent workers on the farm.

Born on September 23, 1962 and married in 1985 to Mr Pritchard Zhou, this successful farmer is a testimony of how proper utilisation of the land can benefit one economically, socially, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Centre pivot irrigation system equipment at Cde Zhou’s farm. Inset: Cde Zhou

She said every Zimbabwean should utilise any piece of land he or she has access to and contribute to the social-economic growth of the country.

Cde Zhou has managed to buy farming equipment which includes three tractors she acquired while brand new.

“We managed to establish an irrigation system, first a sprinkler overhead system which we later removed and replaced with a 75ha pivot.

We bought a tractor-pulled grader, irrigation pumps, several transformers when Zesa did not have, bought a planter with GPS — the best planter I have ever seen — and other equipment,” she said.

The farmer said there are different sections at the farm namely livestock, orchard, fish farming, cropping, commercial wheat and maize, seed maize, wheat and sugar beans.

Cde Zhou is also a seed grower under SeedCo.

“We major in seed growing — maize seed of different varieties — but at a given time.

We do sugar bean seed, wheat seed and a little bit of vegetables for domestic consumption and selling the surplus.

Yes, sometimes almost every year I grow something to sell to GMB, especially commercial maize and commercial wheat under the CBZ Agro,” said Cde Zhou.

Growing seed, she said, is an interesting but very tough activity.

“There are certain things you just have to master.

Otherwise it won’t be what you grow and harvest.

It would be downgraded to commercial crop.

Growing seed is labour- intensive, especially growing seed maize.

There are activities which have to be done manually such as rouging.

We also remove late females, diseased, off colour types and also remove females from male lines and males from female lines,” said Cde Zhou.

She said she has four children namely, Rumbidzai, Simbarashe, Tichaona and Fred.

“My children have benefited immensely from our farming activities.

We have managed to send three of my children outside the country to do their schooling.

Tichaona went to Malaysia, Simbarashe to China and Rumbidzai to South Africa.

I have also managed to pay fees for my grandchildren at university.

“I have an extended family and have managed to send some relatives’ children to high school and universities.

Some of them are already working in the diaspora and here at home,” said Cde Zhou.

Agriculture, she said, has changed even her status in the community.

“Socially I am a respected farmer who is seen to have made it in life through farming.

I remember helping many people especially from Gokwe as early as 2005 when people came to the farm to work for grain.

I became a farmer by default.

Yes, remember I trained to be a teacher.

Attained two degrees, a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Tourism and Hospitality,” said Cde Zhou.

She said she managed to increase the size of the farm from a 30ha forest to a 150ha farm that is changing the lives of the community members.

“I never thought I would be a farmer but my husband is a beneficiary of the Land Reform Programme and he was posted as a diplomat to South Africa and I had to come and manage the farm.

It was just a thick forest of 30ha in 2002 but later extended to 150ha.

We had to clear the land, remove trees, make the land flat, equip the farm with electricity, buy irrigation equipment and started serious farming in 2003.

We started doing Seed farming in 2007 thanks to SeedCo,” said Cde Zhou.

She said working with SeedCo has made her life easier because of contract farming where she gets the inputs, plants, manages the crop, harvests, process seed, delivers and gets paid.

“Any Zimbabwean farmer can do it and we must make use of the land we got and benefit the country.

It’s a lot of work but it’s doable,” said Cde Zhou.

She said no one has a monopoly of knowledge, especially farming, adding that it is wise to seek advice from fellow farmers and even Agritex officers so that farmers record successes in this business.

“So from 2002 realising that I was a newcomer in farming I made sure I learnt from my neighbours who were mostly the experienced white farmers.

I would visit them to see how they worked on their land, how they planted seeds and asked why this and not that.

I learnt a lot from Mr Van Heerden who eventually sold to me some of his farm equipment as he was leaving the country.

I would also get help from the managers of the white farmers.

Sometimes they would come to inspect my crop and tell me what to do next.

So I got hands-on training from experienced farmers,” said Cde Zhou.

On education, she said: “I trained as a teacher in 1984 at Mutare Teachers’ College just after completing high school at Chikore High School in Chipinge. I taught at Mwanza Primary School in Goromonzi and Avondale School in Harare.”

She said she has several diplomas in Training Management and Public Relations.

“I also taught as a part-time lecturer at Speciss College in Harare and also offered catering services to those doing weddings, church gatherings, funerals and parties,” said Cde Zhou.

Cde Zhou is also a Covid-19 survivor after getting infected in September last year.

“I was on oxygen for five days, quarantined at home.

The passion I have for farming, the love I have to work for my country, my fellow women and my family motivated me to fight this pandemic.

I could see a lot of opportunities ahead of me in line with what I do in life,” she said.

As a parting shot, Cde Zhou said: “By the way, I am the manager and my husband is the director.

My children also assist in running the farm.”

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