Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy contributing immensely to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is also one of the major foreign currency earners after the mining sector.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement has identified youths who have been outstanding in the agriculture sector among them Mr Nikros Kajengo. Mr Kajengo has been applauded for his efforts in empowering the youths through various programmes.
Our Senior Agriculture Reporter, Elita Chikwati (EC) speaks to Kajengo (NK) on his interests and contribution towards the upliftment of the youths in farming.
EC: Mr Kajengo you have been identified as one of the champions in the agriculture sector. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
NK: Nickros is a development practitioner, born and bred in Rushinga District, Mashonaland Central Province.
I am a sample analyst under the Department of Research and Specialist Services, Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement. I am responsible for the enforcement of Fertiliser, Farm Feeds and Remedies Act and at the same time I am the Ministry’s Coordinator for Youth in Agriculture.
EC: What’s your background?
NK: I was born and bred in Rushinga. I did my O-Level at Nyamatikiti Secondary School and also did my A-Level at Rushinga High School. I am a National Youth Service graduate, trained at Dadaya Training Centre, Midlands Province, in 2003. Since then I had the passion to serve my country and the youth at large. In 2004 I was elected Secretary for Finance (Youth League) Nyamasanga ZANU-PF Political District. I have held several portfolios for the youth at district level. At the moment I am also serving as a ZANU-PF Mashonaland Central Provincial Member (Youth League) (Deputy Secretary for Tourism and Environment).
In the Year 2004, I joined the Ministry responsible for Education as relief teacher in Rushinga District till 2005. In 2007 I joined the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as an extension officer. I worked under the Department of AGRITEX, now called Crops and Livestock Department till 2011. In 2011 I was assigned work as a sample analyst under the Department of Research and Specialist Services. My duties involved the inspection of agro-dealers in line with the Fertiliser, Farm Feeds and Remedies Act. In 2016 I was appointed the coordinator for the Youth in Agriculture. I am a holder of an Honours Degree in Development Studies and currently I am Studying for a Masters Degree in Development Studies.
I have as well done a number of in house training programmes in youth development and agriculture locally and abroad.
EC: What inspired you to lobby for the upliftment of youth in the agricultural sector?
NK: To me agriculture itself is the life blood of the current generation, the means of sustainable livelihoods and the only way the country can sustain itself. The land reform programme launched by the Government more than a decade ago proven beyond doubt to me that the Government is committed to economic empowerment and indigenisation. It’s indeed motivating to see black people owning assets and land. I fully believe that the sanctions imposed by the West to our country can only be overcome by youth participation and mainstreaming in the national economy specifically agriculture. I am of the view that it’s the youths can absolutely shape their own future.
EC: Who inspired you to champion the interests of young farmers?
NK: I drew encouraging notes from the veterans of the liberation struggle such as our own President Mnangagwa, VP Chiwenga, (Retired) Cde Perrance Shiri, Cde Victor Matemadanda, Cde Pupurai Togarepi, Cde Samuel Parirenyatwa and Dr Chris Mutsvangwa only to mention a few who joined the bloody and risky liberation struggle at youthful age. I was also inspired by the youthful history of Hon Cde Kazembe Kazembe who has been devoted to the development of his nation.
EC: Have you led any youth organisation?
NK: I led several youth associations in agriculture such as:
i Zimbabwe Revolutionary and Patriotic Youth Network( ZIRAPAYON) Secretary General 2012-2013
ii Patriotic and Revolutionary Youth of Zimbabwe Organisation (PREYZO) Executive Chairman(2014)
iii Zimbabwe Youth Empowerment Platform Executive Chairman( 2015)
iv Zimbabwe Internet Governance Forum Member (Representing Youth) (POTRAZ) 2016
v Zimbabwe Youth Council Board Member and representing Agriculture Sector (2016)
vi Zimbabwe Agro-tourism Platform Board Member (2018)
vii Zimbabwe Young Exporters Platform Board Member (2018)
I have also attended regional and international functions held in support of youth in agriculture ; 2016 Nairobi, Kenya, Youth and ICT in Agriculture and in 2017 I went to China for the China , Youth Employment and Empowerment for Zimbabwe.
EC: As a youth what are your expectations from stakeholders in the industry?
NK: I am expecting the stakeholders
to support the youths in agriculture. The notion that the youths abuse inputs and resources should be dealt with caution since it is a drawback in terms support for the youths and youth mainstreaming effort of the Government. Youths require capacity building, financial support and inclusion in national decision making. I as well expect the stakeholders
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to support the Youth in Agriculture Strategy we are pursuing as Youth in Agriculture Unit under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement.
EC: Is there any Government commitment to youth empowerment especially issues to do with employment, livelihoods and total support in Agriculture?
NK: The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (N0.20) ACT 2013 CHAPTER 2 Section 20 is very clear on the Government position on youths. I can quote “1)
The State and all institutions and agencies of Government at every level must take reasonable measures, including affirmative action programmes, to ensure that the youths, that is to say people between the ages 15 and 35 years-
(a) Have access to appropriate education and training
(b) Have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and spheres
(c) Are afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment
(d) Have opportunities for recreational activities and access to recreational facilities
(e) Are protected from harmful cultural practices, exploitation and all forms of abuse
Above all, on the International Youth Day President Mnangagwa proved his total commitment to youths at large a she expressed his faith and confidence on the potential of the youths. The President clearly stated that it was the role of Government to empower and support youths through providing diverse and educational opportunities.
EC: What are your achievements in agriculture sector?
NK: Since I was appointed the national (chief) coordinator for the youths in agriculture and with the support of many committed youths in agriculture we did programmes that yielded results such as:
2015 Launched a Youth tree planting programme and planted several trees in schools and Chiefs -This include 500 trees planted for Chief Seke (2016)
Launch of Projects-Potato and horticulture throughout the country (2016)
Launch of indigenous chicken that benefited over a thousand youths (2017)
Launch of research trial by the youth in support of Government Climate Change mitigatory Strategies, Youths were given inputs by seed houses such as National Tested Seeds, Pioneer, Pannar, SIRDC and DRSS-OPV Varieties (2016)
Launch of Entrepreneurship Training in Agricultural Colleges throughout the country (2017)
Extension Services and Capacity Building to the Youth (2016-2018)
Establishment of a National Youth in Agriculture Database (2016-2018)
Financial Literacy Training in Colleges of Agriculture (2017)
ICT application launch throughout the country Musika Website and Ifarm in support of the youths in agriculture (2018)
Launch of Farmer Field Schools with a special focus on Youth and Women (2018)
Promotion, Profiling of Agro-tourism information for the country with the support of Zimbabwe Agro-tourism Platform (2018)
Promotion and Profiling of Youths into Exporting Sector (2018)
Mindset Change awareness programmes for youths-urging them to embrace indigenous foods that include production of small grains (2018)
Co-organise a national Young Farmer’s Conference held in Harare, (2018)
HIV and AIDS Awareness programme for the youths in agriculture
Lobbying for a Strategy for Youth in Agriculture (2017-2018)
Intergovernmental programmes representing youths (2013-2018)
Contributed towards the Youth Investment Case that gave birth to the 2015 Youth Development Report (2014-2015)
Part of Financial Youth Inclusion Committee Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe(2017-2018)
Preparing budgets, project proposals and cash flows for youths in agriculture projects (2013-2018)
Facilitation of Tobacco Contracts for the Youths (2017-2018)
Editor and Founder ZimFarmNet Magazine Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Youth Magazine Bulletin (2016)
Editor and Founder Modern Farmer Magazine Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Youth Magazine Bulletin (2018)
Coordinated an ex-offenders rehabilitation through agriculture program.
EC: What is your advice to the youths?
NK: Youths should jealously guard the land and this can be done through working hard, being honest and being patriotic to their nation. The Youths are the architects in terms of economic growth and this can only be realised through their involvement in agriculture. They must not wait for a written offer letter to take agriculture rather they are supposed to utilise every space rendered to them legally by authorities. These plots can be available in communal, A1, A2, Small Scale and Resettlement areas. The Youth should as well unite, work together and add value to their produce. They should as well consider exporting of their producer especially after adding value to them. Furthermore, I say to the youths that discipline, patriotism and entrepreneurship are crucial in as far as sustainable development is concerned. Lastly youths should abstain from drugs, abuse of social media, prostitution and should support Government’s HIV and AIDS drive programmes.