What Young Agripreneurs Can Learn from Farmer Organisations
By Raymond Erick Zvavanyange
National organisations and institutions such as the farmer unions in Zimbabwe are now fully integrated and competing to provide quality products and services to their registered members. Generally, like-minded and closely-associated community members sometimes come together in order to reach common agreed set goals and objectives. For example, one desired end could be to influence in a positive way how agricultural products are marketed once they leave the farm gate. This single end would demand an effective labour force, efficient farm equipment, standard operating procedures, and sound management systems. The result would be increased farm output and incomes.
Returning to the claim of like-mindedness, this is also congruent with the activities of farmers unions in Zimbabwe. When well-guided, influence is allowed into any system and the result can only be change – positive hopefully.
As the Country representative under the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), a global movement of youth in agricultural development, I am impressed with the commitment levels from farmer organisations active in agriculture and agribusiness development. There is but one goal – to achieve improved farmer’s lives. This is also one goal that YPARD is committed to: in theory and practice as well as online and offline.
Innovation in the food and agriculture system
Farmers’ organisations are leading in implanting this one goal. In Zimbabwe, they are assuming the voice of the voiceless, connecting value chain actors, and much recently, mentoring and confidence building among their clientele. An example of a farmer organisation that is growing in reach and extent in its work with young farmers aptly called “agripreneurs” is the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU). ZFU Youth Department has successfully tapped into the drive to create sustainable solutions in farming in their work with young agripreneurs. Many of these young agripreneurs are grouped into what they call “Young Farmers Clubs”. These would be a professional equivalent of “hubs” where they get to meet, share experiences, and provide business support to each other. Together with other partners, ZFU launched a Young Farmers Innovation Lab which is one of the tools to change the mindsets in the transformation of agriculture.
A new culture of doing agribusiness
I have attended and participated in the ZFU’s Zimbabwe Youth Agripreneurship Summit for three years now. I have gleaned valuable insights and lessons on what it takes to grow a platform as well as to build competencies within your target group and affiliates. As shared during the Summit, YFCs will be able to market their farm produce under a specially designed logo “Sustainably Produced by Young Farmers in Zimbabwe”. This is a confirmation of the competencies that young agripreneurs must possess in order to compete in a global economy. The new culture of doing business also means that young agripreneurs would have to rely on a number of skill sets, chief among them “opportunity seeking and initiative” as shared by Dr. Nigel Chanakira, a business person in Zimbabwe, in his “10 Entrepreneurial Competencies” invited talk. The other nine competencies are: “risk taking, demand for efficiency and quality, persistence, commitment to the work contract, information-seeking, goal setting, systematic planning and monitoring, persuasion and networking, and independence and self-control”.
The Post-2015 development agenda
In my last book “Youth, Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Development: Engagement insights from Zimbabwe and Africa” I shared the inspiring case story of the Zimbabwe Youth Agripreneurship Summit together with two other stories. Well organised institutions can provide a whole range of competencies for young agripreneurs. The bold step by the management at ZFU to lead in initiatives with young agripreneurs is a positive move to improve farmers’ lives. It not only meets the national objectives as set in guiding policy documents but also contributes to the new proposed Sustainable Development Goals. These initiatives and other platforms independently organised within the food and agriculture sector of Zimbabwe shape mind, change attitudes, and gives farmers an edge in their agribusinesses. They provide an impetus to structural transformation in African agriculture. Historical injustices in the former colonial period may have placed the country between a rock and a hard place but the young agripreneurs springing across Zimbabwe are responding to the call to provide urgent solutions to a sustainable future – post-2015.