Cletus Mushanawani Mashonaland Central Bureau
A FEW years ago, Baldwin Mazango (33), did not have the faintest sniffs that one day he would trade his white collar marketing job for farmers’ shoes and work-suits.
When he was recently capped with a Bachelors’ Degree in Marketing at Midlands State University, Mazango saw himself as the new guy in the marketing world, who would do everything to impress his bosses.
Alas, the young farmer has completely turned his back to that profession and is always toiling on the fields day and night with his workers at their family plot at Umsasa Farm in Mazowe area of Mashonaland Central.
The best student in the 2009/ 2010 class at the prestigious Blackfordby Agricultural Institute where he graduated with a Diploma in Agriculture, Mazango is a man on a mission, whose desire is to see young Zimbabweans taking farming to dizzy heights.
He wants to see young Zimbabweans surpassing records left behind by white former commercial farmers.
While most of his peers will be busy chasing dresses like a vixen on heat, Mazango’s time is spent working on the land acquired by his parents during the land reform programme. To him, riches come from the land.
The best cars and mansions can be acquired from the blood, tears and sweat shed while working on the land.
A visit to Plot 9, Umsasa Farm on Tuesday afternoon proved that the Mazangos are in the farming business to stay. Besides the temperatures souring up to 32 degrees Celsius, the family was busy working in the fields together with their 12 permanent employees.
They had also hired 22 additional labourers from the surrounding communities to help them harvest their winter potato crop.
The family has a minimum yield of 45 tonnes of potatoes per hectare and four tonnes of that crop is harvested every day.
They grow the Nandi potato variety, both the seed and table potato. For the winter crop, they had six hectares under seed potato, while 1,8 hectares were under table potato.
Although the family was beaming with wide smiles watching the work of their hands being unearthed, this year’s farming was not a stroll in the park as they had to endure long winter nights.
“This year was one of the coldest years in history. The last time this area recorded very low temperatures was in 1956. We had to find strategies to fight the frost, which if we had left unattended would have dealt a lethal blow to our crops.
“We came up with a strategy where we would burn cow dung and maize cobs at the edge of the fields and this helped as our crop was saved. We are now enjoying the harvest, but this came with a lot of sacrifices.
“We produce the seed potato for Agricrop and I am happy that this year we have one of the best harvests,” he said.
On how the Mazangos’ journey to now stand head and shoulders above their peers who are beneficiaries of the land reform programme started, Baldwin said: “We inherited bushes and these red soils from a white former commercial farmer in 2001. Our parents, who have a strong rural background would bring us here. At first, I used to think that they were slave drivers who did not want us to enjoy our holidays, but I now thank them for their vision.
“We are now proud owners of a greenhouse where we grow red and yellow pepper as well as tomatoes.
“We are into serious horticulture, with plans to introduce blueberries, granadillas and strawberries for the export market. Just like tobacco farmers, we also want to be counted as some of the country’s forex earners.
“Although we are also into cereals production, we have realised that the future is in horticulture.
“If horticulturists get the necessary funding and support, I can tell you that Zimbabwe will be on the right track. With horticulture, you do not need vast tracks of land for you to produce enough for export.
“A small area will see you smiling all the way to the bank,” he said.
Baldwin said they were also into cabbage farming where on average they have 25 000 heads after every four weeks, with the next crop expected to be planted in mid-September.
They recently harvested 50 000 heads of cabbage. They also had six hectares under sugar beans, 15 hectares under soya-beans and 10 hectares under maize.
“We have a very cordial working relationship with our employees who are the most valuable asset on this farm. We bring our vision and resources and they bring their expertise.
“We enjoy a two-way communication channel and the employees’ suggestions on how to improve our yields are always welcome,” he said.
One of the longest-serving employees, the supervisor who also doubles up as the tractor driver Mr Patrick Komboni, said: “I have been working here for the past seven and half years and I enjoy my work. Everyone is very supportive and we have achieved a lot together as a team.”
As a word of advice to young Zimbabweans out there, Baldwin said: “We are the country’s economic foot soldiers and we should put our shoulders on the wheels.
“We are blessed to have a rich country like Zimbabwe and all what we need is to work hard.
“Our fathers played their role in fighting for this land and it is now our duty to work on it in the second Republic of Zimbabwe.
“Yes, we might not have the necessary resources, but with proper planning and execution of the plans, you will definitely scale the success ladder.
“I know that my peers out there want a fast life, but the best cars and mansions can be bought from our sweat on the land. With the way I enjoy farming here, I don’t see myself queuing for a white-collar job again.
My future is here on this farm and with the support I get from my parents Mr Faustino and Mrs Lydia Mazango as well as my wife Charity Manuwere, the sky is the limit.
“My two other siblings are also very supportive.”
He said he was also a member of the #farmlife, a group of young farmers that interact and share ideas.
He also hailed Government for coming up with the Command Agriculture Programme as it is proving to be a game changer.
“With Command Agriculture, everyone is now back at work. It is good to see your neighbour harvesting something through Command Agriculture.
“This programme should be spread to other sectors like horticulture.
We know that horticulture is not a low-hanging fruit, but investing in it has big returns in future,” he said.