WHEN Mr Ishmael Dirahu (24) left his motor mechanic job in Cape Town, South Africa to venture into fish farming back home in Umguza District in Matabeleland North, many thought he would live to regret the decision.
Mr Dirahu represents a new crop of young farmers that are changing the face of Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. At his youthful age, he has broken stereotypes that farming is for the older generation.
This growing interest in farming by young people is reshaping and transforming the agricultural sector.
Working in partnership with his United Kingdom-based father, Mr Herbert Dirahu, the young farmer has managed to transform a 24-hectare family plot at Woolandale Farm in Umguza District into a thriving integrated fish and vegetable farming project within a period of 14 months.
The farm is located along the Bulawayo-Plumtree Road, about 22km out of Bulawayo.
A holder of a national diploma in motor mechanics from Bulawayo Polytechnic, Mr Dirahu said when he started the fish farming project in June last year during the Covid-19 lockdown, it was an experiment.
Since then, he has never looked back and believes the sky is the limit.
“When I decided to leave a well-paying job in Cape Town to try my hand at farming, my friends including some family members thought it was a bad idea. I obeyed my instincts and returned home and today I have no regrets whatsoever,” he said with a smile.
“I engaged my father and he offered to assist with capital and we managed to construct five earth ponds with a total capacity to hold 50 000 litres of water. The ponds also serve as a vital water source for the horticulture project.”
Currently, there are 45 000 tilapia bream fingerlings at the ponds, which are set to mature in the next three months.
Through his farming project, Mr Dirahu is contributing to the country’s economic growth. Zimbabwe recognises aquaculture as a form of livestock production with potential to contribute significantly to sustainable livelihoods, food security, and economic development, through value addition and export of processed fish product.
Mr Dirahu employs 10 workers and hopes to generate more employment for the local community. Using the profits, he has managed to expand the business by adding three more nursing ponds from where he wants to breed fish.
“We source our fingerlings from Kariba, but our plan is to start a hatchery enterprise and already we have three nursery ponds under construction,” he said.
“I realised that aquaculture carries prospects of generating more employment and contributing to the country’s economic growth, which is why we want to transform the farm into a centre for quality fingerlings. Our target is to increase fish production and self-sufficiency through sustainable intensification of the existing aquaculture enterprise.”
Mr Dirahu said he used two solar powered boreholes to pump water into the ponds as well as watering vegetables planted on five hectares.
He said most of his customers for fish are neighbours and motorists using the Bulawayo-Plumtree highway. Supermarkets in Bulawayo are his major market for vegetables.
“It takes six months for the fish to mature. Each pond accommodates about 10 000 fingerlings and when we sell the fish, we make a profit of between US$5 000 and US$6 000 per month. My advice to those interested in fish farming is that you start small, but eventually you get there,” said Mr Dirahu.
“In fact, there is good money in fish farming. I get inspiration from other farmers and also access some of the technical knowledge through researching on the internet. We supply supermarkets in Bulawayo with vegetables and through this thriving business, we are taking care of about 20 family members.”
Despite these hurdles, Mr Dirahu believes they are making progress and wants to participate in the Command Fisheries and Pfumvudza/Intwasa programmes. He urged youths to venture into full-time farming in their numbers and take a lead.
Under the Second Republic, President Mnangagwa has adopted policies to attract the young to farming in line with the National Development Strategy I (NDS1) and Vision 2030, aimed at transforming the country into an upper-middle income economy.
In January, President Mnangagwa expanded the Agriculture Ministry to Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement by setting up a new department as part of preparing and implementing a Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan. The new department, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, is set to spearhead the development, expansion and necessary regulation of [email protected]