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GROWING YOUR OWN CROPS IS LIKE GROWING YOUR OWN MONEY

By TAWANDA MUNYUKI

“I REALLY want to see a generation where we the women have the power to make the change we want, the power to be seen and heard and the power to be us and explore our full potential,” These are the words of Rachael Chanda, a nurse and farmer who is passionate about improving the welfare of women.

Ms Chanda is a young lady who ventured into nursing in 2014 and is pursuing her degree in critical care nursing at Birmingham City University.

Apart from being a nurse, Ms Chanda is also a small-scale farmer who dreams of one day becoming a commercial farmer.

Ms Chanda says she developed interest at a young age because of growing up with her mum’s sister who was equally passionate about farming.

Away from being a nurse, studying and being a small-scale farmer Ms Chanda, a mother of two, is also empowering young girls and women who are vulnerable.

“Growing up, I was helped by a lot of people because my parents died when I was young and I had to be raised by other people.

“I knew I had to succeed so that I can also take care of other people especially girls and women who are vulnerable and that is how I came up with the ‘She Has A Dream Foundation’.

“I just want in my own little way to help as many young girls as I can out there especially those that have business ideas but do not know where to start from.

“In as much as I lost my mother, I was lucky to be raised by her sister who is like my mum but there are women out there who do not have anyone to look up to and this is why I feel the need to help them.

“I feel helping them can save not only their businesses but also their lives because a woman who is not financially stable is vulnerable to different forms of abuse and that is what I want to help end,” and that is why she has a dream to help such women.

“My story is like that of any young girl because I had to mature at an early age and be responsible and I knew from the word failing was not an option for me and I just had to succeed in whatever I wanted to do,” said Ms Chanda.

Rachael Chanda

QUESTION: What was your dream career seeing that you are doing a lot of things?

ANSWER: I initially wanted to be a doctor but after I completed Grade 12 we had financial challenges and my family could only manage to pay for me to do nursing.

Q: When did you start farming on your own?

A: I started my farming in Kitwe when I was working for Kitwe General Hospital, I would plant some vegetables at the back yard and when they grew neighbours would come to ask me if they could buy the vegetables and at the time I would give them for free until I realised that I could make some money from it and when I returned to Lusaka I continued and just added some village chicken.

Q: What vegetables are you growing?

A:  Like any other newcomer, I used to do chipantempate kind of farming (farming everything) because I had rape, Chinese cabbage, okra, onion and 30 plants of bananas. Now I am trying to specialise in onion because I have learnt the need for specialisation for me to grow as a farmer unlike doing things just because everyone else is doing it.

Q: How important is training and mentorship in farming, some people may thing you just need land and some tools?

A: Training and mentorship are very cardinal for one to be a successful farmer. Many are a time I realise that there are many things I do not know about agriculture and farming and this is when I am learning about them thanks to the conferences and the workshops that I have been attending over the years.  They have been very helpful in shaping me.

Q: How has been the journey so far?

A: The journey has been challenging because this is a field that people feel is best managed by the men. So as a woman even if you are good and know what you are doing, you still need to prove yourself so many times just to gain the trust and confidence of the clients but overall I have been managing. I have managed to gain the trust and confidence of my clients and they always recommend me to others.  Be it    vegetables or eggs, I get recommended.

Q: From your observation and experience are you seeing the agriculture sector growing as far as women’s involvement is concerned?

A: So far, we are doing okay and headed in the right direction and we have a lot of young people getting involved in the agriculture sector unlike the way it was in the past when agriculture was considered to be something for the elderly, those who have retired. Now it is different and parents out there need to support their children who are passionate about farming and just help them develop the skills because agriculture is definitely the biggest employer.

Q: How do you balance your time, being a mum, a nurse, a student and a farmer as well?

A: It’s hectic at times but what has helped me is prioritising, having a to-do list and reducing the hours I sleep… if I am supposed to do some work and finish, I make sure I do it without fail and at the end of the day I just try to make sure that I balance everything and leave nothing behind.

Q: One thing we cannot run away from in farming or agriculture is loss… sometimes crops die, livestock die… as a farmer how do you deal with that?

A: Losses are unpredictable, you may think you are safe and then all of a sudden something happens and your crops or your chickens are gone. So for starters, you need a mentor to take you through and prepare your mind for such eventualities and when it does happen, learn from it… it should be a lesson and not the reason you shun farming. You can’t really say you will prepare and avoid losses in as much as you can.  Sometimes its way beyond you and there is nothing you can do about it.

Q: Where is your farm?

A: We are in Chongwe and we do deliver to nearby areas for most people and sometimes it is a challenge because eggs can be at a certain price and maybe that is not workable for me considering that I have to move from Chongwe to Lusaka,  so yeah that is challenging.

Rachael Chanda

Q: Share with us a few tips on running a successful business in agriculture?

A: Employ the right people to work with, people who understand the vision and treat your farm business as their own and also continue to learn, attend workshops and seminars on agriculture because in our industry learning never ends. We learn every day because things are changing daily so you need to be part of the growth and know what is required, be willing to learn and do not think you know it all….. And also make sure you treat your workers well, for them to be able to deliver ensure that you feed them well and make them feel comfortable.

Q: What are some of your successes so far in the few years you have been a small scale farmer?

A: I started the farm last year in August and I am just proud that I have been able to achieve so much in such a short space of time. I started from home and now I have more land and I have managed to secure very good and loyal clients. I have defeated the notion people have about civil servants and most importantly my financial status.  It is not as it was before I joined farming. There is money in farming because growing your own crops is like growing your own money.  

QUESTION: Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

ANSWER: Not even few years maybe just a few months because I received some grants to grow my farm. The biggest challenge at the farm is water and now that I want to go commercial, I need to ensure that the farm has adequate water for me to be there.  Of course I will also be completing school in a few years and there is so much success lying ahead and I can’t wait to just unleash my full potential.

QUESTION: What can you say to other young girls and women out there?

ANSWER: Do not be scared to leave your your comfort zone, there is so much you can do and remember to always uplift the women next to you because that is the only way we as women can be seen and heard.

This article is supported with the WAN IFRA Women In News (WIN) Social Impact Reporting Initiative (SIRI).
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Women In News

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