Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
IT is very rare for a university graduate to leave a white-collar job to be a full-time farmer.
Perhaps it’s part of a regrettable but ingrained colonial legacy that bred Africans to always be a labour force and never think of being employers or producers of commodities.
Going against societal norm, Mr Petros Muponda, a journalism graduate from the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), has taken a leap of faith that is paying off big time.
Mr Muponda graduated at the university in 2015 before joining the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s public relations department
Last year in November he quit his job to focus on full-time farming.
Without his own land, he was forced to rent three hectares of land from a traditional leader in Zvishavane, where he pays US$100 a month.
He says he was exposed to how profitable full-time farming can be while working in Harare.
Armed with limited knowledge, he made up his mind to venture into farming and learn more on the job.
He forsook his comfortable office job that assured him of a regular monthly salary that did little more than buy food and pay bills.
Mr Muponda says knowledge is power in farming.
He says knowing how and when to do things when living off the land eliminates most risks and reduces chances of making heavy losses in farming.
Nine months after leaving his job, he does not regret shifting his focus to horticulture.
He says being one’s own boss is infinitely satisfying because all the extra hard work or sleepless nights he puts in translate to more money for him. He says his project is paying about 10 times what he was getting from the “8AM to 5PM gig” at the ministry.
He says while his family was very supportive about his career shift, some people who were close to him felt he was losing his mind and becoming delusional as they never took him for a farmer.
“I would say my parents were very supportive but others thought I was losing direction. They didn’t seem to understand that a university graduate would leave a well-paying job to gamble with ‘highly unpredictable’ farming. To them, it didn’t make sense what I was doing but after my projects started bearing fruit, they started to develop a keen interest in what I was doing. A lot of youths started asking how I’ve managed to do what I do, how they could also join the trade,” says Mr Muponda, a smile of apparent contention lighting up his face.
He reveals that not all has been rosy as he has suffered serious losses, due to lack of proper knowledge in the sector.
“I’m into horticulture, tomatoes, butternuts and at the moment I’ve cabbages. But due to lack of knowledge I had planted tomatoes, which I hoped would be ready probably by the end of July, they were seriously affected by the cold at the end of July. I lost about 9 000 plants that I thought I would reap serious profits from,” he said.
Mr Muponda, says he uses skills learnt at university to market his produce, which gives him an edge over traditional farmers, who were used to taking their vegetables to the marketplace.
He says through using social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, he directly engages with clients and even gets feedback from customers.
The youthful farmer said he has not given up on a media related career.
Mr Muponda says his biggest challenge is that he rents the land.
“This is the biggest challenge especially for me. I could do better if I had my own piece of land. But as it stands, I can’t develop a rented space. Renting land is very limiting as I would want to install solar equipment to optimise business but in a rented space you can’t really do that. I think the Government should avail more land to youths because at the moment the challenge is that it’s not easy to apply and be granted land yet some people are not using land productively,” says Mr Muponda.
He appears to introspect as he smiles once again and encourages youths to change mindset and start thinking in other terms.
“Do not go to school so that you can get employed by someone. Go to school to gain knowledge and start your own projects so that you actually employ others and have more control over your destiny,” he says in a parting shot. – @nqotshili.