‘Poverty is a choice’

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
SHE has set herself a target of being one of the biggest fish farmers in Matabeleland and Midlands region.

Ms Patricia Tabengwa (67), a pensioner from Killarney suburb in Bulawayo believes that poverty is a choice and has decided to use every available space in her home to become economically productive.

Ms Tabengwa, a former Bulawayo Polytechnic lecturer moved to Botswana in 1994 and returned home last year in July before establishing a massive fisheries project in October.

She started the project with just 1 000 fish but her business has expanded and now has 20 000 fish in her backyard in Killarney suburb and has made inroads towards supplying hotels, butcheries and restaurants with her produce.

Ms Patricia Tabengwa’s greenhouse

Ms Tabengwa is not just a fish farmer but a roadrunner chicken breeder as well.  Her academic skills are largely on business management with farming being her passion.

In her fowl run, she keeps several types of road runners and identifies them using their special names.

It is unbelievable that chicken can be sold for US$100 but in her field, this is just normal.

A Chronicle news crew visited her place of residence on Thursday where she took the news crew through fisheries and the chicken breeding projects.

“I started this fisheries project with 1 000 fish but I have now expanded to 20 000,” said the self-taught fish farmer who follows online tutorials to fish farming.

She has three huge aquaculture production units where she keeps the fish in a greenhouse.

Ms Tabengwa separates small fish from the big ones saying failure to do so will result in the bigger ones eating the smaller ones.

“When I was starting it was a learning exercise, I was comfortable with small figures but after learning, I decided to grow my business. Although fish production was growing, I didn’t know how the market looked like. It was just about the passion I had for fish and farming in general. I made a decision that I would just grow the fish and see what happens to the marketing side of things,” said Ms Tabengwa.

“I made my first harvest at the beginning of April and the uptake was very good. I was just selling them to my neighbours. However, after participating at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), a lot of people have shown interest. I’m hoping that with time, I should be able to make deals with hotels and restaurants as well as butcheries, they have expressed interest. I can’t say at the moment how concrete it is.”

She said she delayed approaching the market as she wanted to guarantee providing a produce without disruptions.

Ms Tabengwa said she took keen interest in fish farming as the industry is not yet saturated.

“The fact that not so many people are involved in fish farming is what led me to join the fisheries sector. Most of the time people want to do what everyone is doing, because they would be thinking that the project has money. I said I’m not going to do that. I was one of the people to start a chicken breeding project at large scale and now the market is flooded so I have resolved to start another project and start a new project,” said Ms Tabengwa.

“Fish farming is going to be my retirement project because I’m already retired. With fish farming there isn’t much work compared to poultry, it’s fairly easy stuff.”

She said growing fish in a greenhouse allows her to be involved in their production all year round.

Ms Tabengwa said fish farming is not good during winter and the greenhouse provides the necessary warmth.

“Fish farming is seasonal. Right now, in Kariba, which has been providing us with fingerlings, they are in May closing the selling season and will only reopen in September. That means for a while we won’t be having fish in the market so the greenhouse will make me continue to produce whether it’s cold or not. We have inserted a thermometer and a humidity test so that we monitor temperatures on a daily basis,” she said.

Ms Tabengwa said she also wants to be involved in producing fingerlings as no such supplier is available in Matabeleland and Midland provinces.

“I need to set up a nursery, I have incubators. I want to have fingerlings. That is another stream, the problem that we have is that the whole of Matabeleland region up to Kwekwe all our fingerlings come from Kariba so that is another avenue, a soft avenue so you can venture into providing fingerlings,” said Ms Tabengwa.

She said apart from the fisheries project she was a road runner breeder for more than a decade in Botswana.

Ms Tabengwa said the road runner breeding project is mainly supported by those who are involved in the trade showcase of the birds.

“In Botswana, I had over 10 000 road runners, if you went to the Agriculture Ministry wanting road runners, they would refer you to me. In Botswana such [showing the news crew the cock] a cock is sold for P700 which is US$60 and these are prices that are regulated by the Ministry in Botswana. Here it is difficult to sell chickens for that much but I managed to sell some of the chicken for between US$30 and US$40 during the ZITF period,” said Ms Tabengwa.

“These breeds are very good show birds especially when showcasing them at trade fairs. It is difficult to just put on the pot and cook a chicken which costs US$40. A lot of people even in Botswana were asking me where these chickens end up. I also do not know but people always buy them for breeding purposes.”

Ms Tabengwa’s other projects, poultry and fisheries

While a lot of people do not see opportunities in the country, the pensioner said this is a matter of perceptions.
She said a lot of people make excuses and ignore opportunities that exist in front of them.

“You create your opportunities, there are so many things I don’t believe in. For instance, a lot of people say that they don’t have opportunities or say they don’t have land or space where they can start projects. For me those are excuses.

I will tell you how I started poultry project in Botswana,” she said.

“I started at the corner of my house, my niece asked where we would put them as we didn’t have the space, I just said right at that corner and I started with 15 chickens, I had to create bunk beds just to create space.

“Most of the time we hide behind that there are no resources and I have always said to the people that it’s your decision on what you want to do. Sometimes, I sound very cruel that it’s your decision to be poor. While I worked for government in Botswana, behind my house I was growing rape and selling it to colleagues.”

Ms Tabengwa has an egg incubator at her home in Killarney which enables her to sell day old chicks.

She said theft is one of the major setbacks in her business as she has previously lost some fish as well as chickens.
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Article Source: The Chronicle

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