Last week, Mr Chikwara was also honoured as the national Best Vegetable Farmer of the Year.
The young farmer operates from his parents’ 37-hectare plot at Worringham in Matabeleland South, about 20 kilometres from Bulawayo along the Bulawayo-Gwanda road.
Notwithstanding the plot’s geographical location, Mr Chikwara has actually managed to turn his dream of becoming a successful commercial farmer into reality.
He has transformed the piece of land, previously lying idle, into a thriving horticulture project that generate US$25 000 annually.
He was recently honoured by the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) during its annual congress in Gweru when he won the Best Young Farmer of the Year Award. For his recognition, he received seed, chemicals, fertilizer, a trophy and certificate, which was accompanied by a prize money of $25 000.
Chronicle news crew yesterday tracked Mr Chikwara to his plot situated on a hilly and rocky place near Siphezini village in Matabeleland South and he shared his success story including how he started the journey in 2015.
“This is my fourth year in farming having started in 2015 with my brother and my determination was to be among the best vegetable producers. The land belongs to my parents and they have other business interests and for me it’s both a passion and a business,” he said.
“My brother is now in Harare pursuing other interests and I decided to remain on the farm and continue with the project. I am growing pepper, cabbages, green beans onions, butternuts and tomatoes.”
Mr Chikwara said his faming business continues to grow in leaps and bounds.
“I have been growing my business since I started this project and when we started it was on a small scale and we had half-a-hectare but we have now cleared six hectares. We use drip irrigation which saves water by 35 percent,” he said.
“Since our region is dry, we are trying hard to conserve the little water that we have. The water that we are accessing is underground water and when I got here there was only one borehole.”
Today, there are three boreholes at the farm and one of them is solar powered while the others use electricity to pump water. There is also a reservoir which has a holding capacity of 800 000 litres of water. Water is pumped up the hill and we then use gravitational force to water the fields.
Mr Chikwara doesn’t hold any formal qualification in agriculture and as such is a self-taught farmer who relies heavily on technical advice from agronomists, extension officers and other experts in the field and also does research on Google.
As part of diversification, Mr Chikwara recently introduced an aquaculture project and constructed six earth ponds with a capacity to hold 1,2 million litres of water. The ponds also serve as a vital water source for the horticulture project.
“I have decided to diversify by recently introducing aquaculture because these two complement each other. We also keep cattle, sheep and goats but at a small scale but we are now thinking of venturing into chicken and goat production at commercial level,” he said.
“We recently planted 300 000 onion stations, 10 000 stations of sweet paper and another 10 000 stations of green beans, which yielded 800 kg which we will harvest in 21 days.”
At the moment, Mr Chikwara is servicing markets in Bulawayo, but has set his sights on exports. He has also partnered with Traditional Grain Producers Association (TGPA) in an organic ginger project for the export market.
“This is a model for the Matabeleland region for every farmer who is willing to be part of organic ginger production. They will be coming here and learn how to produce ginger for export market,” said Mr Chikwara.
He said work had already started on producing seed which will then be planted next year in November to sell in March and April 2022 to the Middle East.
“The market is already provided by TGPA, which also provided us with the seed. We are working with that organisation and they will be coming tomorrow (today) to demonstrate to us how we should be planting ginger.”
Mr Chikwara urged farmers to grow high breed seed that have better quality, which have a better shelf life, colour and taste and yields.
“Our crops are tolerant to heat, drought, pests and diseases. I urge farmers to grow high breed seeds because they are more profitable.
We don’t grow open pollinated varies, but we grow high breed seeds, which are genetically modified and post-harvest losses are minimal. I can be able to store tomatoes for seven weeks and onions for six months before taking them to the market,” he said.
Under the aquaculture project, each of the six ponds has a holding capacity of at least 13 000 fish. So far, he has 9 000 fish and hopes to increase the numbers next year.
“This is a new business, which is part of diversification and the idea is to harvest water, put fish in the ponds and then we use that water to irrigate our crops. The water will then be fertilized by our fish and when that water gets to the fields there will be adequate nutrients and we will then use less fertilizer,” he said.