Bongani Ndlovu, columnist
Mr. Martin Nyoni and Mrs. Fattela Nleya operate a 3.5 hectare plot of land in Village Six Estates, Heaney Junction along the Bulawayo-Harare highway.
The plot has various farm produce, such as rabbits, laying hens, fish, tomatoes, cabbage, green pepper, lettuce and beets.
Their plot tends towards self-sufficiency since fresh produce subsidizes livestock and vice versa. Rabbits, in addition to purchased pellets to feed them, depend on cabbage and lettuce leaves produced in excess by plants.
When the produce is ripe, what’s also great about their concept is that the couple’s plot contains farm-fresh produce that supplies their two restaurants and their retail store located in town. They adhere to the principles of value addition because their agricultural products have a ready market that can consume them.
The fish which number 9,000 are fed fish feed and subsidized by the manure produced by the nearly 300 laying hens and rabbits.
Once ripe, the fish are delivered to various stores in town.
There are five fish ponds on the property, including one 20m, 30m and 1.5m deep that are functional, as Mr Nyoni said this is a relatively new project.
A former nurse, Mr Nyoni said he teamed up with his partner Mrs Nleya three years ago, bought the plot and their first project was planting cabbages.
“We started the project about three and a half years ago. What inspires us is seeing other farmers doing different things. This land was barren and after plowing the land, we put 7,000 cabbages and we managed to harvest. But unfortunately, we had planted at the wrong time, and the cabbages flooded the market, and we ended up selling them at US$1 for four, instead of US$1 for one,” Mr. Nyoni said.
He said the main challenge for the project was water.
Although they have a borehole, a new, more powerful pump is needed.
“The second season we then started working on the water system, because water is a challenge here. We dug boreholes and bought Jojo tanks which are 20,000 liters of water to irrigate the different plants. said Mr. Nyoni.
He said the reason the plot has different crops and products was that they weren’t stuck in one market.
“We tried to diversify and have different cultures where we supply the market. The good thing is that we have no middleman. So all our harvests, we take them to the restaurant. With an intermediary, the product becomes expensive to sell, for example, lettuce costs US$1 per head to buy in the market. If you produce your own, that’s half of that,” Mr Nyoni said.
He said they owned two restaurants in the city center and supplied them with fresh produce.
“Thus, the products used in the menus of our restaurant are farm-fresh products. With the rabbit project, we have 11 now, but by the end of the year we are aiming for 500 to 1,000 and the meat will be added to the restaurant menu,” Mr Nyoni said.
Ms Nleya, who worked for 12 years at Innscor, said she worked in the fast food sector and then in the beauty industry, but agriculture pays more than both. “We used to be more of a beauty people until we realized the money is in agriculture. At first we started a Spa Center Salon in the city center, then we opened a restaurant called KaMandazi, then opened Vuma Groceries and Take Away, then recently the Grand Arcade. Here we supply them with the fresh produce,” Ms Nleya said.
She said she started selling samoosas when she worked in the fast food industry more than 15 years ago. “As women, nothing is impossible and nothing is above us. We should not always consider men as our providers, we should be able to use our God-given hands to earn money or start projects to earn money,” Ms. Nleya said.
“I would get up at 3am and make samosas and my daughter would take them to her school, Masiyephambili Primary School.
The tuck shop at that time was taking my samoosas which were 20 in number. I realized from the 20 samoosas I started making 100, 200 until one point I started to to supply the stores of the city.
Looking to the future, the couple wants to develop their agricultural activity.