The Sunday Mail
Word from the Market
MOST farmers have traditionally viewed agriculture as a way of life, rather than a business venture that can transform lives. However, the Second Republic, led by President Mnangagwa, has transformed agriculture by changing the mindset of farmers.
Everything starts in the mind.
A business-oriented farmer approaches agriculture with a strategic mindset and long-term goals.
They understand that farming is not just about production, but meeting market demand in a sustainable manner. With the increasing demand for food and the potential for profitability, many farmers are now striving to turn their farms into successful businesses.
This transition requires careful planning, strategic decision-making and a deep understanding of the agriculture industry. There are steps that should be considered to turn farming into a profitable business.
Identifying a profitable niche
One of the first steps in transforming farming into a viable business is identifying a profitable niche. This involves conducting research into market trends, consumer demand and potential gaps in the market.
By focusing on a specific niche, farmers can differentiate themselves from competitors and target a specific customer base. Profitable niches in farming include organic produce; specialty crops; value-added products such as jam or cheese; and livestock production such as free-range poultry or heritage breeds.
The livestock sub-sector is broad. A farmer should, therefore, choose exactly what they want to specialise in. For example, Terrence Maphosa has managed to transform his farming venture in Village 6, Mhondoro-Ngezi, because he chose to specialise in roadrunners.
Developing a business plan
Once a profitable niche has been identified, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive business plan.
A business plan serves as a roadmap for the farmer’s operations and outlines the venture’s goals, strategies, financial projections and marketing plans. It should include an analysis of the target market, competition, pricing strategies, production costs and distribution channels. A well-developed business plan not only helps in securing financing, but provides guidance for decision-making and growth.
Turning farming into a business often requires significant upfront investment in land; inputs such as seed and chemicals; equipment; infrastructure; and working capital.
Securing financing is essential in covering these costs and ensuring smooth operations. Farmers can explore various financing options such as loans from agricultural banks or credit unions, subsidies, contract farming or partnerships with investors. It is important to carefully evaluate the terms and conditions of each financing option to ensure it aligns with the farmer’s long-term goals and financial capabilities.
Acquiring land and infrastructure
For many farmers, acquiring suitable land and infrastructure is a crucial step in turning farming into a business. The location, size and quality of the land play a significant role in determining the farmer’s productivity and profitability.
Farmers should consider factors such as soil fertility, water availability and proximity to markets. Additionally, investing in appropriate infrastructure such as irrigation systems, storage facilities, greenhouses or livestock housing can enhance efficiency and productivity.
Good agronomic practices
Implementing good agronomic practices can help reduce costs, increase yields and improve overall profitability. This may involve adopting modern technologies such as precision agriculture, automated irrigation systems or better ways of applying fertilisers and chemicals.
The practices also include optimising crop rotation, implementing integrated pest management strategies and utilising sustainable farming practices to minimise their impact on the environment.
Establishing marketing channels
Effective marketing is essential for any business, including farming. Farmers need to establish reliable marketing channels to reach their target customers and sell their products profitably. Venturing into farming before securing markets is a recipe for disaster.
This may involve direct marketing through farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture programmes or on-farm retail sales.
Additionally, farmers can explore partnerships with local restaurants, supermarkets or mass markets such as Mbare Musika. Online platforms and social media can be powerful tools for promoting farm produce and engaging with customers.
Building relationships and social networks
Building strong relationships and social networks within the agricultural value chain is crucial for success. Farmers can benefit from collaborating with other growers; joining agricultural associations, unions or co-operatives; attending industry events or conferences; and participating in local or regional initiatives such as agricultural shows and exhibitions. These connections provide opportunities for knowledge sharing, accessing new markets or distribution channels and staying updated on industry trends and best practices.
Continuous learning and adaptation
One of the biggest challenges for indigenous farmers is their reluctance to acquire new knowledge. However, the agriculture industry is constantly evolving due to technological advancements, changing consumer preferences and environmental factors. So, for farmers to remain abreast with these trends, they should continue acquiring new knowledge. The Government has set up agricultural colleges and vocational training centres across the country, which farmers can use to enhance their skills.
The Government has since established more than 30 village business units across the country under the Presidential Rural Development Programme. They are being implemented by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority; the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority; and the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA). None but ourselves can transform our country.
Word from the Market is a column produced by AMA to promote market-driven production. Feedback: [email protected] or WhatsApp/Call +263781706212.