Conrad Mupesa Mashonaland West Bureau
For Tinashe Ziki (51), to be conferred with an Honorary Philosophy Doctorate in Agricultural Science and Technology by Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) for his significant contribution to the farming sector was quite unimaginable.
The Mhangura farmer never saw himself as a likely candidate for such a prestigious university honour.
But the unimaginable happened to him.
Recently, President Mnangagwa bestowed Ziki with the doctorate at CUT during its annual graduation ceremony that also saw over 2 400 graduating with various degrees and diplomas.
It was a distinct privilege for him to be recognised for his stellar career in agriculture spanning some three decades.
He now has the title: “Dr Ziki” joining the ranks of other prominent Zimbabweans who have received such honours.
Farming for Dr Ziki has been part of life for decades and like wine, for close to about 30 years, he has matured and perfected his skill.
Dr Ziki is a beneficiary of the land reform programme and has had interest in farming since 1993.
Before acquiring a farm, he would request for additional land from other communal farmers to plant crops.
He has become one of the country’s biggest black commercial farmers driven by passion and a unique drive to showcase the capabilities of blacks in farming.
Dr Ziki has shown that the Government’s programmes, including Command Agriculture, are crucial for the country’s agriculture turnaround plan.
A trained and qualified electrician, Dr Ziki grew up in the dust and remote part of Hurungwe in a farming family.
Tilling the land was deeply embedded in his family. This helped him to develop a passion for farming.
Without agricultural training, but exposure to subsistence farming, tilling the land and herding cattle at his rural home in Zvipani, Hurungwe District, Dr Ziki was inspired by his father, a successful rural farmer himself.
He did his primary education there at Matau and Zvimhonja Primary Schools in Zvipani, and Murehwa High School.
He kick-started his farming career on a 4-hectare piece of land cultivating maize as a communal farmer, riding on his father’s old farming equipment which included an old Fordson Major tractor and a 2 disc plough.
Between 1995 and 1999 he then progressed to expand his crop production area by leasing land from neighbouring farms.
At age 29, he harvested 75 tonnes of maize from 11 hectares of land and was awarded Best Farmer in Mashonaland West by the Zimbabwe Farmers Union.
Some of the areas that he leased land from included Porker Range Farm in Makonde District (Alaska Area) from which he harvested 175 tonnes of maize.
At the same time, he also diversified into the transport business, owning two 30-tonne haulage trucks.
“In 2000, I applied for land and I was allocated a farm here in Mhangura which was about 100 hectares,” said Dr Ziki. “From the 100 hectares, only about 20 hectares was arable. In 2004, I got an offer letter for a bigger space.”
Dr Ziki was allocated a 340-hectare piece of land at Highbury estate in the Lion’s Den area where 200 hectares was arable.
This is also the same period he decided to resign from ZESA to concentrate on farming.
His farming expeditions have been lubricated by access to financial assistance from banks through a company that he used as collateral.
“I opened Fortune Drive Enterprises and turned my operations into a business,” said Dr Ziki. “Since then, I have not looked back. The move has helped me to access loans, a challenge bedevilling most farmers.”
Dr Ziki employed technologies that include precision agriculture, coupled with investments in mechanisation, understanding of irrigation and soil science technology and business approaches.
Reading the citation of Dr Ziki at the graduation ceremony, CUT’s acting pro-vice-chancellor, Dr Fungai Chatiza said: “Gradually, he invested in mechanisation as part of his expansion strategy and purchased a Fiat tractor, a 16-dish disc harrow and a 400-litre boom sprayer through the grant.
“This marked the beginning of the realisation of his vision into agricultural mechanisation as critical drivers to productivity and profitability in agriculture.”
In 2005, Dr Ziki purchased a sprinkler irrigation system to irrigate 60 hectares of the 200 arable land and has gradually increased the total area under pivot irrigation to about 603 hectares serviced by a total of 12 pivots.
The 2006/2008 hyperinflationary period did little to threaten his endeavours. Dr Ziki went on a massive expansion drive that saw investments in the latest farming equipment to cater for increased land utilisation, including a fleet of Monosem and New Holland tractors, several planters and combine harvesters, grain dryer, vicon spreaders, feed mixer, holding silos and fertigation machinery, among others.
The mechanisation has seen him increase the area under maize from 300 hectares to 570 hectares and 1 100 hectares harvesting a record 21,92 tonnes per hectare which won him the 2016/2017 Seedco 11 Ton Plus Club Top Award.
He has also installed a multi-million-grain dryer at the farm to avoid post-harvest losses which continue to reduce yields for most farmers in the country.
Dr Ziki has also received numerous accolades and awards including the ZB Bank Oscar Award 2012 (most outstanding customer), National Winner from SeedCo II Ton Plus Club Yield Contest in 2017, Seed Co-Brand Ambassador and Lead Farmer in 2017, Case IH Brand Ambassador for Africa and the Middle East in 2017, Agricon equipment Best Customer in 2017 and National Farmer of the Year in 2020.
He has mentored and inspired many young farmers including youthful farmers like Mr Farai Chirinda of Reinfields Farm in Makonde district and Mr Mike Mutasa from Zvimba district, who have also taken up farming seriously.
Mr Chirinda decided to quit being a banker to take farming as a full-time business.
Apart from nurturing young farmers, Dr Ziki has selflessly shared his knowledge of modern farming methods with students from the School of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at CUT.
Farmers from China have also paid him a visit under the ZimChina Joint Venture Company.
“Farming is an incredibly important element of our economy and we have to work closely with our university researchers to make sure that farming stays viable and contributes to improving Zimbabwe’s food security,” said Dr Ziki.