ZIMBABWEAN youths are embracing ICTs to explore the vast opportunities available in the agriculture sector.
According to the Ministry of Land, Agriculture and Resettlement the average farmer in the country is 55 years despite youth making up the bulk of the population.
However, the advent of ICTs has opened up to the youths a sea of opportunities and many are beginning to make use of them at a production level in agriculture.
A recent McKinley study estimates that mobile and internet technology can drive up US$3 billion in annual agricultural productivity gain by 2025.
One of the young Zimbabweans who have given a whole new meaning to farming is social entrepreneur Clive Nyapokoto.
Nyapokoto who farms in Marondera has created an integrated smart organic farming system that grows herbs, strawberries, lettuce, spinach and other varieties of horticulture crops.
“One of my projects is the Vermi-Aquaponics system which is basically a soilless farming system that does not involve any weeding or digging. I grow my crops using the vertical space and this more productive than the soil based approach to farming.
So we take the water from the fish pond and pump them into the grow beds and the plants absorb the dirty nutrients in the dirty water bed before it goes back into the bed” said Nyapokoto.
In order to ensure that the variables required by the plant are correct Nyapokoto realizes on what he calls the Internet of things (IOTs).
“We rely on the IOTs which help us to monitor the nutrients, water temperature among other variables to ensure that the plants are well. Our crops grow much faster since you are using the vertical and output can be twice more than the horizontal”
Nyapokoto concedes that the initial capital outlay is huge and may pose as a deterrent to many youth hoping to adopt the system.
So how Nyapokoto raise capital to pursue his dream may hold the future for Zimbabwean and African youths.
“I participated in the innovation fund hosted by Potraz and was able to come out as the top contestant and got the necessary funds to start my dream. I also received support from the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) under the youth fund”.
While the business continues to grow to the point that Nyapokoto is struggling to meet market demand challenges remain.
“The foreign currency shortages are a challenge as we have to import the sensors and solar equipment for the project and that is proving to be very difficult”.