Somabhula livestock queen breaks barriers
Patrick Chitumba – [email protected]
IN a traditional African setting, cattle were regarded as a symbol of wealth for men. Even today, livestock keeping is still a male-dominated field with a few women making inroads.
When her husband died in 2012, Kudzai Katiyo (47) thought her life had come to an end.
Left with two children to look after, she had to think on her toes as she struggled to provide means for the family’s upkeep. Eleven years on, the same Katiyo has transformed herself into a popular livestock farmer in the Somabhula area in the Midlands, where she has distinguished herself as a successful cattle farmer.
Katiyo who also identifies herself as “WeUmambo’” loosely translated as “of the royal priesthood” now talks authoritatively about livestock feed formulation, cross-breeding of cattle, disc harrows, or irrigation for pastures.
She is into full-scale livestock production and concentrates on cattle ranching and fattening projects at her Figtree 8 Farm in the Somabhula area, which is about 45km from the City of Gweru. There are 110 cattle under cattle ranching and 30 at any given time under cattle fattening.
There are pens for cattle ranching and fattening.
The purpose of cattle fattening is to increase the weight of the cattle over 90 days and to raise the quality of the beef (higher grade of beef, more money when she sells them). The farm is also home to rabbits, goats, sheep, and road runners.
“I lost my husband in 2012. With the breadwinner gone, as a mother I needed to brace up and be there for my two children and extended family,” she said.
“God gave me the strength and wisdom to work for my family though it can really get tough due to societal pressures and perceptions. In some instances, it’s difficult to get the assistance that you expect to get just because you are a woman.
“My husband passed away so prematurely and I was left with a lot of questions but no answer was forthcoming. Reality sank in and I knew I was now a widow who had two children to look after,” she narrated.
“There were school fees to be paid, and a herd of cattle to look after. I soon discovered that I had to wipe off the tears and be strong for the kids. We were just starting farming and I had not yet developed this passion since my husband used to do all the farming.”
Today, Katiyo, a beneficiary of the successful land programme is the proud owner of over 140 cattle, and now employs eight farmhands.
“I have since developed a passion for livestock farming and I am dreaming big for this farm because I want to contribute more to the socio-economic development of the country,” she said.
“In 2010, this was just an open space, there was nothing but just the bush. We built a cottage and drilled two electric-powered boreholes so that we could have water readily available for crops, livestock, and ourselves.”
For Katiyo, farming is a big business with lots of profit.
“We want to make sure that the products/ services are supplied at a profit. Farming is rapidly becoming what it should be, a business that people enter from choice, not a method of survival and that’s what we are doing here,” she said.
With the desire to look after her children and family, Katiyo is working on investing more at the farm through infrastructure development.
Does she always succeed at all she does?
“Oh goodness no, I’m human. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep trying to be the best I can be.
Owning and operating a farm is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your limited time on this earth, make the most of every day and remember why you toil,” she said.
Katiyo is grateful to the Government for the successful land reform programme as she never dreamt of owning a piece of land.
“I’m very grateful to God and the Government of Zimbabwe because I now have the opportunity to make my dream come true. The land I have is opening opportunities for me as I grow my brand,” she added.
The Somabhula livestock queen says she owes her success to fellow farmers who have been there to give her advice on how to make farming a business.
She recalls a day when a fellow farmer, who is into livestock production, paid a courtesy visit and was surprised she had 26 steers.
“He asked me why I was holding on to some of the unproductive steers and warned me against having an emotional attachment to unproductive cattle as they lose value with age,” said Katiyo.
She then decided to sell all the steers and from the proceeds, she managed to get a good starter for commercial beef production.
“I later built a fowl run with a holding capacity of 4 000 chickens. I went on to build myself this farmhouse, all this with proceeds from the farm. I also managed to send children to school and look after relatives,” she said.
With a focus on livestock value addition, Katiyo is eager to grow her business and increase the staff complement from eight permanent workers at the farm and four at the butchery in Gweru.
“We pay our taxes and we are NSSA compliant. The farm workers are trained in cattle fattening, general cattle management, rabbit keeping and poultry farming. We do on-farm training, which is project-based,” she said.
“We recently started dog breeding at the farm and our butchery staff are trained in marketing, bookkeeping, and meat processing.”
Looking into the future, Katiyo wants to establish a meat processing centre at the farm and supply different markets across the country.
“I supply meat to hotels and schools and I’m opening a traditional cuisine restaurant in Harare in July. I want to turn this farm into a production centre,” she said.
“I have drawn up a five-year development plan and I can assure you that this farm will be a meat centre in terms of everything to do with new production and processing happening here.
“I want to show other women that we can do it on our own. Livestock farming is dominated by men and I want to prove that as women we can do it, too.” -@pchitumba1