BY SILAS NKALA
LIFE in the diaspora did not only enable Everlasting Gospel of Christ Church leader Anglistone Sibanda to experience a different environment in foreign lands, but it also empowered him with knowledge of how to venture into growing the passion fruit, known as granadilla.
Sibanda spent two years in the United States of America where he studied. He returned in 2014 and immediately developed a passion to grow and produce granadilla fruit for sale. The fruit is mostly required by manufacturers of fruit juices, cakes, special oils, and ordinary consumers of fruit.
He has since established a company, Green Afrique Technologies (Pvt) Ltd where he is the chief executive officer, and has partnered with Ian Ferguson who is in charge of operations.
“Our fruit farming is a market-driven model that is based on extensive market research. It is like farming pecan nuts, and goat farming where the market demand determines production.
“I have been doing agriculture value chain business model development since 2014 when l returned from the US, having seen what farmers there are doing in the dry State of California, where the climatic conditions are more or less the same as those of Matabeleland region,” Sibanda said.
“Having been exposed to the market-driven models, l have over the years worked with other people in integrating market-driven farming into community development, being a passionate community development practitioner myself,” he said.
Sibanda said the concept of passion fruit farming was one of the many initiatives his company concentrated on.
He is a horticultural expert together with Ferguson, and they have wide experience in commercial farming and export marketing.
Sibanda said the passion fruit was in high demand in Europe, while the Zimbabwean climate and soils were very suitable for its commercial production.
“The next billionaires in Africa are farmers, and the African Development Bank (ADB) projected that Africa’s agricultural sector growth will hit a trillion dollars by 2030. As such, it is imperative to motivate, organise and empower local young farmers and those based in the diaspora to invest in the growth of the sector so that there is growth in gross domestic products (GDPs) of African countries.
“Passion fruit is known as the miracle or wonder fruit in Kenya and Uganda, where the sector is growing phenomenally with mostly the youth actively participating and exporting the fruits.
“We want to see Zimbabwean youths doing the same — creating employment and downstream industry, getting foreign currency and contributing to the growth of the economy.”
He said passion fruit trees could be grown on any piece of land despite size.
However, Sibanda said one needed to obtain pre-financing and to join an outgrowers’ scheme so that they can be trained and provided with technical support to produce the fruit.
Sibanda said there was need for a farmer to get seedlings at the very minimal cost, adding that for maximum benefit, the farmer needed at least one hectare of land with deep soils and reliable constant supply of water since the passion fruit is a tropical exotic plant.
“However those with less capacity can still participate according to what they can afford.
“I got the capital by thinking through issues and being creative and innovative.
“I was able to articulate my vision, which led to collaborations and injection of capital over and above my own investment from personal savings,” he said.
“Passion fruit is extremely lucrative to an extent that out of an investment capital of around US$300-5 000, the turnover after just six months can go up to US$60 000 from a projected yield of 42 tonnes and above of fruits, out of which 95% must qualify for export. And the $60 000 turnover is expected to be perennial as the vines keep producing for up to four years.”
The outspoken pastor said the passion fruit took only six months to bear fruit from the day of planting and the vine lasts up to five years, so one would keep harvesting and selling.
“Our vision is to be a transformational agent, impacting communities and transforming lives through agro-based community-driven entrepreneurship and we see ourselves becoming the biggest change agent in Africa, impacting lives and creating billionaires out of poor young African youths and peasant farmers unlocking potential, capacity enhancement and creating market linkages and building the agro value chains,” he said.
“To those roaming the streets l would take them to the wise words by our late Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, ‘if you want money turn the word mali’ you will get it.. meaning lima. I was raised by a peasant farmer and l learnt the value of farming and there are vast opportunities in the sector. I also want to refer to Genesis 26 vs 1-14…” Isaac planted in that same year of a famine and God blessed him, he had a hundredfold harvest.. vs13.. and Isaac became exceedingly wealthy and powerful. If you work on the land you will get the wealth and the power.”
Sibanda said they were rolling out an out-grower programme for those who are interested and they would be having induction training in Harare and Bulawayo as soon as the lockdown is eased, hopefully end of February and mid-March respectively to get those who want to sign up equipped with knowledge to go and implement.
He said they would be supplying them with seedlings after they had done the necessary land preparation and verifying their capacity.
“We are currently a few people because we do not necessarily employ people but we form partnerships so those working for us are not employees but our partners, the lead team consists of only five people, myself in charge of the general strategic direction as the team leader, Ferguson in charge of operations and other team members, — one responsible for the markets and quality control, ensuring that we comply with the global gap certification standards, one in charge of finance and administration and the other in charge of human resources and legal affairs . . . drafting of contracts etc,” Sibanda said.
“We are based in Bulawayo and operational in Harare as well and expanding to other provinces. We have leased several farms around Bulawayo and Harare and we continue to acquire more land and contract more partners.”
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