Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
GRINNING from ear to ear, Mr Mlungisi Ncube (27) could not contain his tremendous joy as President Mnangagwa extended his hand for a handshake in front of ululating multitudes gathered at Jinjika Village, Makorokoro area of Mangwe District.
This was on a sultry Wednesday afternoon, the 15th of December 2021 when President Mnangagwa was launching the Presidential Rural Development Scheme in the remote village tucked deep in semi-arid Matabeleland South, the fourth-largest of the country’s 10 provinces in terms of size.
The province, whose economy is largely centred around subsistence farming and livestock farming, sits on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, giving it an arid climate.
Mr Ncube, a holder of a Diploma in Agriculture who graduated two months ago from Esigodini Agricultural College, has made his own history by becoming the first of the 35 000 youth managers to be employed by Government to spearhead the growth of nutrition village gardens under the Presidential Rural Development Scheme.
Growing up in Makorokoro, Mr Ncube developed a passion for farming at a tender age.
Born in a family of four boys and two girls, Mr Ncube was inspired by his Ordinary Level agriculture teacher to pursue studies in the field of farming.
Mr Ncube attended Jeza Primary School in Mangwe district before proceeding to Bulu High School in the same district for his secondary education.
He could hardly believe it when he was offered a job to manage a group of 163 communal farmers as the manager of the Sekusile-Makorokoro nutrition garden in Jinjika Village, his home area, barely a week after graduating on October 8.
The project falls under the Presidential Rural Development Scheme.
The programme, which will benefit 1,8 million households, seeks to create a US$6 billion rural economy by 2025 rising to US$8 billion by 2028 from the current US$300 million.
The nutrition gardens are part of community integrated farming hubs consisting of solar powered borehole, fowl run for free range, fish ponds, orchard and apiculture around the water source. When the Presidential programme is in full swing 700 000 villagers will be employed daily throughout the country in addition to the 140 000 who will be employed directly.
When operating at full capacity, each garden is expected to generate an annual gross income of the equivalent of US$100 000 for each village.
The nutrition garden measuring 5 hectares was launched by President Mnangagwa as a model scheme, which will be replicated across the country’s 35 000 villages.
He represents 35 000 youths that are going to be employed as scheme managers within the next couple of years as Government rolls out the massive programme across the country.
Mr Ncube is being nurtured by the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) and Agritex.
Under the programme, Arda and Agritex are the agronomists for the projects.
The Forestry Commission will provide fruit trees, ZimTrade will spearhead the identification of markets while Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) will provide the financing that is required for each of the 35 000 villages.
The Tobacco Research Board (TRB) will supply elite virus eliminated sweet potato material. The Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) will establish fresh produce markets for the 35 000 village gardens and ensure production is market-led.
The programme is part of Government’s efforts to improve rural economies and end poverty among the rural folk in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
At the launch, the President sold the first bundle of spinach produced at the Sekusile-Makorokoro garden to off-takers for US$1.
AMA has already started establishing offtake agreements with buyers of fresh produce from the garden, which was established two months ago.
With 163 beneficiaries, Sekusile-Makorokoro nutrition garden has already started generating money in its first eight weeks of establishment. Arda said the scheme would generate at least US$163 000 every year.
Currently farmers have planted cabbages, vegetables and tomatoes on a piece of land measuring one hectare.
“I enrolled at Esigodini Agricultural College and attained a Diploma in Agriculture. I am now employed by Arda to run the horticulture project as manager. My job is primarily to co-ordinate farmers and other stakeholders involved in this project,” he said.
“Under this scheme, Arda is supposed to recruit a local young man or woman who would have studied agriculture. Luckily, I happened to be the only youth in the area with the relevant qualifications and that is how I got the job.”
Mr Ncube said he is equal to the task and optimistic that the scheme will transform lives and arrest the illegal border migration by local youths.
“This project will stem the tide on irregular cross-border migration especially in this part of the country, which lies along the border. Most of the youths in this area drop out of school and illegally cross to either Botswana or South Africa. This is an opportunity for locals, especially youths and women to empower themselves,” he said.
“Farming is a business and we are optimistic that this project has a potential to expand. We have 163 beneficiaries from this garden and once we sell our produce, we will remove all operating costs and share the profits among ourselves.”
Mr Ncube said the scheme is a game changer for local community.
“This scheme will transform the lives of the local community. In fact, some of the beneficiaries had never been employed in their entire lives and therefore this programme, which was launched by the President, has created an opportunity for them to improve their standard of living,” he said.
“We have also just introduced a fishery project and already there is a fish pond which will accommodate 10 000 fish per cycle. We have just received fingerlings and I am very excited and indeed it’s an honour to be the first manager of a scheme launched by the President himself.”
Mr Ncube’s future plan is to pursue his career in agriculture and he wants to proceed to university where he intends to focus more on agricultural research.
He hopes that after gaining enough experience, he will venture into an agro-based business that would generate more employment for locals.
“Although I developed a passion for farming at a young age, my agriculture teacher at O-level encouraged me to pursue agriculture and that is why I ended up enrolling at Esigodini Agricultural College.
The good thing about agriculture is that you can be self-employed,” he said. — @mashnets
Article Source: The Chronicle