Mrs Jenifer Makadho (46) of Maringirishai Village under Chief Nhema in Zaka is a widow with three children of school-going age.Her first son is at the Midlands State University while the other two girls are doing Form Four and Six at a boarding school, respectively.
After her husband’s death in 2008, Mrs Makadho battled the vagaries of life, toiling for everything to cater for the welfare of the children and her own.
In 2009, life became unbearable as the little pension money left by her late husband could no longer sustain the family.
She took to vending to sustain the family.
However, Mrs Makadho was not realising much from the business.
The business was not too rewarding as the market she operated from was flooded with the same wares.
As if that was enough, the incomes of civil servants – who constituted the bulk of her customers – did not help the situation.
Despite having a well-off brother-in-law, her situation remained dire.
Ironically, he wanted to take her for a wife, without even providing for the children but she would have none of it.
In 2012, after she had exhausted all avenues to earn a living, Mrs Makadho was introduced to a seed manufacturing project at Fuve-Panganai Irrigation Scheme in Zaka communal lands.
Some villagers had come together and formed a co-operative.
The venture instantly changed her fortunes.
The project named Zaka Super Seed Association is home to more than 400 members, comprising of villagers from Ward 5 to 15.
It has done wonders in changing the villagers’ lives.
In an interview on the sidelines of a study group exchange visit on seed organised by Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre (FPC) at Fuve-Panganai Irrigation scheme in Chief Nhema area, Ms Makadho said the project has changed her life for better.
“I do not fancy being in an urban setting because I have done a lot for myself despite being a widow.
“Through Zaka Super Seeds, I have acquired a lot of assets. I realise an average of $4 500 per season from producing seed which includes beans, peas and maize.
“In a good season, like now, when our seeds are rain-fed, I expect more than $8 000,” she said.
She said her life is a tale of “from rags to riches”, considering the quality of life she and her three children are leading as compared to 10 years back.
“This project has done wonders in my life. You can come to my home and see how much I have developed over the years, courtesy of this project.
“I am paying for my children’s education. The boy is at the MSU and two girls are in secondary school.
“Both my daughters are at a boarding school while my son is also a resident student at the university,” she said.
Operating on a 54-hectare piece of land, the project came as a panacea to the poverty-stricken district.
Members have a means for survival realising an average income of $7 500 per year per individual.
Mrs Makadho said since she joined the Zaka Super Seeds Co-operative her life has drastically transformed for the better.
The co-operative is now operating as a full company – Zimbabwe Super Seeds.
Mrs Makadho is one of the renowned growers of beans, cow peas and maize seed in Zaka.
She realises more than seven tonnes per season for each crop.
The project has also not left out elderly members of the community.
There is also an 85-year-old man, Mr Cephas Duhwa, who is also a shareholder in the company.
The company has spread its wings to eight more districts including Bikita, Gutu, Mwenezi and Masvingo in Masvingo province.
Its tentacles have also reached Manicaland province in areas such as Rusape and Mutasa and Mberengwa in the Midlands province.
Mr Duhwa said farmers have the privilege of growing seeds of their choice. There are no imagined fears of policy constraints on localised seed production.
The farmers have the privilege of growing seeds of their choice under the guidance of officers from the Agriculture Extension Services (Agritex).
He said through the association, he can look after his family’s welfare including great-grandchildren.
“We do not have hassles in producing seed as we are protected by Government through Agritex. We are a registered association operating under the banner of Zimbabwe Super Seed with a registered constitution,” he said.
“Through this project, I am managing to cater for my welfare, eating a balanced diet although I have grown up children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I realise not less than two tonnes of maize seed per season which cost $600 per tonne and an average of 20 bags of bean seed which costs $1,40 per kg.”
Zaka Super Seed Association chairman Mr Munyaradzi Chipinda said the project has earned an intentional acclaim given the quality of seeds they are producing.
He said the association gets seeds from Cymit Seed Company in Harare for free – courtesy of a Government agreement that their umbrella company, Zimbabwe Super Seed Company, has entered into.
Mr Chipinda said the association receives about 7 000 tonnes of foundation or breeder seed of maize and bean every season.
This is distributed among a certain number of farmers as foundation seed.
After the foundation or breeder seed is planted, the selected farmers will develop into commercial or certified seed producers.
The produced seed is given to all farmers in the cooperative.
At every stage of production there is strict inspection of quality of the seed by independent officers from the Agritex.
Mr Chipinda said 10 wards from Zaka are benefiting from the project where communities have successfully become competitive seed producers.
“Since we started this project in 2009, it has grown into a renowned community based seed producer which showcases its products at the Harare Agriculture Show, Zimbabwe Trade Fair in Bulawayo, Zaka Provincial Show and Masvingo Provincial Agricultural Show,” said Mr Chipinda.
“As a localised seed house, we are not faced with any challenges of note, apart from the natural phenomenon like Elnino-induced drought which affected many farmers throughout the country in 2016,” he said.
Seed production is done at the plant situated at Fuve-Panganai Irrigation Scheme and the seed is stored at the warehouse waiting for dispatch to the market.
The association has a ready market in all towns and cities, business centres and small shops throughout Zimbabwe and regionally.
Plans are at an advanced stage to source European markets.
The association boasts of all the required state of the art machinery which includes a planter, tractor, seed graders, fumigation equipment, winnowing machine among others acquired from Government’s private partners.
Zimbabwe Super Seed marketing officer Mr Noel Ndlovu said the association comprises of serious farmers who have changed their communities for the better.
These, he said, remained self-reliant through their bankable projects which have seen other districts joining.
He said the association employs over 90 people including six contract workers and has qualified personnel who do administration work.
“We have a success story here in Zaka, where villagers have come together and formed a seed producing association which has grown into a company.
“The company has 90 employees occupying different positions and it has a board of directors resident in Masvingo,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu said the farmers use open pollinated seed varieties and follow specific guidelines so that their seeds are not condemned by inspectors.
Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre field officer Mr Jerry Kudakwashe said the study group exchange visits, which saw 12 organic farmers from Goromonzi participating, helps farmers appreciate how community-based seed producers conduct their businesses.
“Farmers should also appreciate the benefits of having localised seed houses.”
Masvingo Provincial Agritex officer Mr Paul Poshai hailed Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre and Zaka Super Seed Association for such a strategic partnership urging other communities in Masvingo to emulate the project.
“We have known Zaka Super Seed which has grown into Zimbabwe Super Seed Company for quite a long time. They have provided our farmers with quality seed and the seed has done wonders,” he said.
He urged farmers to embrace localized seed houses which have great potential to create regional markets.
Zaka Central Parliamentarian Paradzai Chakona said the association should act as a model for the constituency, district and nation at large.
“We have seen how communities can empower themselves through this lucrative venture.
“Instead of our youths and women crying foulover sources of income, they have taken a lead in self-reliance through this project,” said Chakona.