by Watmore Makokoba
After failing to proceed with education, a 17-year-old from Mareverwa village ward 12 has left Chirau community in Zvimba District astounded after coming tops in conservation farming and concurrently assuming the post of the ‘leading farmer’ in a group composed of 20 farmers. Seeing an insecure future, Tonderai Chifamba, who dropped school at form 3 after failing to secure fees decided to utilise available resources and venture into farming on his father’s piece of land.
Living in a communal area where the community largely depends on peasant farming and the soils have been heavily depleted of all the fertility over the years due to over usage, coupled with successive droughts that have hit the area, Tonderai had to find ways of making the land productive, otherwise his new found career in farming would be futile.
His parents, both alive, already burdened with looking after other siblings saw this as a breakthrough and supported him by allocating him a portion from the family’s piece of land, little did they know that this was the genesis of a marvel that would follow. Albeit the scanty piece of land at hand and inadequate inputs, Tonderai was not deterred but was determined to do not only his family proud but the whole of Chirau community.
“I dropped school in form three mid last year after my family failed to secure fees for me to proceed, my parents are both unemployed and I knew there was no hope in looking up to them,
“I nearly became hopeless until I decided to utilize what was available, my father’s small piece of land,
“ I decided to do the opposite of what the youths are doing when faced with my situation, many youths in my situation are idle and doing drugs, so I decided to set an example to my siblings that going to townships to look for employment is not the only solution available”, said Tonderai.
During the onset of the 2016 rain season, Environment Africa through financial support from Bread for the World – Protestant Development Service were implementing a community livelihoods improvement and climate change resilience-building project that would include localised responses to climate change phenomenon, to him this was a golden opportunity to augment his dream of becoming a farmer since there was nothing else for him to do in a country where many youths succumb juvenile delinquencies and drug abuse due to high unemployment.
The program’ s objective is to train groups of smallholder farmers on Conservation Agriculture (CA), provide inputs and offer support, monitoring and evaluation working hand in hand with the Agricultural Extension Officers and local seed producing companies.
When the time for the demo plots evaluations came, it was ‘bolt out of the blue’ to the Chirau Community that Tonderai, the youngest farmer ever to hail from the area, if not the country at large came out second in a group of 20 experienced and elder local farmers. Subsequently, Tonderai‘s achievement made him defy all odds as he was appointed lead frame of his group.
During the field day event held in the village, Chief Chirau applauded the young man and implored fellow youths to emulate what he has done. “I am grateful and moved by what this young man has done, this must be a template that we must adopt in our community from now onwards, we will from now on priorities the youths in all developmental programs so that they take charge of their destiny now, him,” said Chief Chirau.
Although Tonderai’s dream would have been to complete his education and perhaps pursue other career channels, fate and opportunity have opened a new chapter in his life that he has fallen in love with and accordingly, if there is any advancement he will undertake, it’s centered on enhancing his knowledge and skill in his newly found passion, conservation agriculture.