Women in Agriculture Support each other through the Pass-On scheme

Regina Pasipanodya

AMID the lack of financial support for Zimbabwean women venturing into different business initiatives, women in agriculture are supporting each other with start-up kits that help them grow in agro-business under a pass-on scheme, initiated by Women in Agriculture Union (WAU) in 2019.

Letwin Nyagano at her farm in Norton. (Picture by Regina Pasipanodya)

Like their counterparts in other fields, women in agriculture have been facing challenges in acquiring loans from financial institutions, due to tight requirements that they are supposed to meet such as being a genuine farmer, having the applicant’s name appearing in the revenue records, and being able to produce proper sureties among other things. In many cases revenue records or properties appear in the names of husbands. 

However, through the pass-on scheme, women farmers have supported each other with start-up kits in the form of chicks, piglets and rabbits among other things, allowing them to start an agro-business with value addition.

One of the beneficiaries of the scheme, Letwin Nyagano (60), of Nyaga City piggery said: “Usually, when an opportunity comes wearing a work suit, women tend to distance themselves from such things but this initiative has managed to empower many women farmers across the country through giving them ideas and boosting the already existing businesses in poultry and piggery.

Nyagano has managed to build an agro-business empire that specialises in piggery, at a farm in Norton.

“All I can say is zvikasashamisa haasi Mwari (this can only be God), said Nyagano as she narrates her journey as a farmer. She has become a celebrated pig farmer in Zimbabwe at a national level.

 “After eight years of hard work and determination, I can proudly say there is money in farming. I started this journey with three piglets and I got 40 more piglets through the pass-on scheme, which was facilitated by the Women in Agriculture Union.

“Although about 11 of the piglets died due to the conditions under which they were ferried to the farm, I managed to save 29 and right now I have more than 83 breeding pigs. I also managed to pass on about 10 pigs to other farmers without calculating those that are ready for market,” said Nyagano.

She has become a certified farmer who can conduct artificial insemination on pigs and has been offering free piggery training to women across the country.

Part of Letwin Nyagano’s piggery project

“I have been training people from all over the region and other places within our country, but I am surprised with people in my area. They are not interested, but when they see one’s success, they blame it on luck charms. Farming is a lucrative business that requires hard work, support from each, and knowledge about what you are doing,” said Nyagano.

Nyagano received a donation of a piggery food processing machine valued at US$3 460 from the Ministry of Women Affairs Community Small and Medium Enterprise Development (WACSMED) during the launch of the International Women’s Day celebration this week.

Speaking on behalf of WACSMED minister Sithembiso Nyoni, Permanent Secretary Moses Mhike said as the country celebrates the International Women’s Day celebrations he was honoured to witness the good work that women were doing to ensure their empowerment.

“Nyaga City has become a place that shows that some women like Mrs Nyagano, know how to work hard utilising the available resources,” said Mhike.

Nyagano has inspired other women.

“I have watched Nyagano grow from day one and I look to up her with so much, so much admiration because she is one woman who doesn’t give up so easily,” said Peggy Simango (58), a farmer from Mhangura.

“When this program started, most of us didn’t take it seriously, but I have watched her every step of the way. The journey has been amazing. She is a strong woman and a provider.”

The pass-on scheme started as an idea of WAU to create a platform where women farmers can help each other with start-up kits, especially in poultry and piggery production.

WAU is a membership-based women farmers’ organisation strengthening the capacity of women farmers in the agriculture value chain.

In an interview with She Corresponds Africa, WAU founder and chairperson, Olga Nhari said when the organisation heard there was an opportunity for piglets for women, youth, and civil servants at the agricultural show in 2019 under the presidential agricultural scheme, they started engaging women farmers in different platforms so that they could benefit from this scheme.

“The responses were disappointing as most women would ask what’s in it for you. To us as WAU it was something that we believed could help farmers in piggery to boost their business. It was only Nyagano and two more farmers who came forth with their names and Nyagano took 40 piglets, the other one 10, and the last one 5 piglets,” Nhari said.

“We had to send back a whole truck of piglets to the donors since it seemed that no one was interested, but after learning the success stories of other farmers like Nyagano, many women farmers started coming through. I remember the last time during a pass-on function, we had about 300 farmers who received their piglets and chicks for their projects, but as of now I have lost count of the number of beneficiaries who benefited from this scheme.”

Winnet Kaitano (47) a farmer from Knowe, Norton said she never liked farming due to what she believed then was ‘abuse’ from her experience working with her father during her childhood.

“I used to believe that my father was abusing us when he forced us into farming. It was not easy but difficult for me and I never thought that one day I would appreciate farming this much,” said Kaitano

Kaitano started backyard farming in 2015 specialising in vegetable production.

“I would sell 120 bundles of vegetables a week which costs a dollar each. That is when I realised that there is money in farming, therefore, since we have an A2 farm along Railway 26 in Norton, I am now into farming full-time,” she said.

“Following the footsteps of the farmers like Nyagano in 2020, I received three piglets under the pass-on initiative and it was unbelievable that those three piglets multiplied and I had more than 40 pigs by 2021. I sold most of them to send my child to university,” said Kaitano.

Farming has been lucrative in Zimbabwe and with the support from other organisations like WAU and the Ministry of Women Affairs, most women farmers are realising that it can only be a woman who can hold another woman’s hand and raise her.

To boost her poultry project Kaitano in 2019 was part of the women farmers who got loans from the Women’s Bank which she used to buy 1 000 chicks.

“Sometimes with banks what is written on the can is not what’s inside the can. The amount of money that I got was not even enough to cater for other expenses such as the feed and chemicals that I needed for the projects,” she said.

“As women farmers, we have realised that bank loans in agriculture are not sustaining since farming is work-based and the repayments structures of the bank are not favourable for a farmer. For instance, with broilers, it takes about 6 weeks to start selling the birds but the bank requires their first repayment by end of the month which is four weeks. This means that you will have to get the money somehow to repay the money and the interest is not so favourable to this kind of business.”

Financial institutions which have given monetary support to people in the business including those in farming through bank loans require interests of about 5-10 percent.

This has not been favourable to several farmers, especially those who had to be forced to bring collateral under their husbands’ names.

“This is the reason why we thought as a Women Union, we should engage women and encourage them to support each other with start-up kits to boost their businesses in agriculture,” said Nhari.

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