GFAR blog

YAP Proposal #312: Improving yields and linking to markets (Innocent Sigwadi, Zimbabwe)


My name is Innocent Sigwadi. I am 33 years old. I studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Zimbabwe. I have worked for a number of years in agriculture, from the government sector as an agricultural economist, to the NGO sector as a business development officer, to the private sector. Most of my work has involved helping small rural farmers to improve their production and access to markets.

Improving livelihoods for hundreds of rural folk!

My project aims to increase household income and food security for hundreds of rural households in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe.

We will achieve this by improving yields of small holder farmers in irrigation schemes in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe and linking them to markets for their crops. Matabeleland is too dry for successful crop production without irrigation, but the farmers have no choice but to continue growing crops such as maize which is their staple crop food.

The farmers grow a variety of crops. The project will start with sugar beans, which have a relatively short growing period and a ready market in urban areas. Eventually we will move to other crops such as sorghum, millet and rapoko which will be processed and packaged for sale in urban areas.

We will engage and train farmers on improved farming practices to improve yield at a total cost of $500, including setting-up demonstration plots at project sites as part of the training process at a cost of $200.00.

We will provide an input loan to be repaid from the proceeds of the crop after the growing season of 90 days. We will provide inputs to 60 households (240 people assuming a household size of 4.4 people)

Each household will take care of one tenth of a hectare each, with a total of 6 hectares (15 acres), at a cost of $4,000.00 for seed, fertilizer, transport, insurance, etc. Profits will go into a revolving fund to finance successive seasons.

Target yield = 1.5 tonnes/hectare .

Total income = $10,800.00 = $108.00/household, $36.00/month = enough for food for a month!

We will improve access to inputs at discounted prices by bulking up the requirements of all project farmers. We will work at building lasting relationships between farmer groups through their leadership committees and the input suppliers.

The relationships will be sustainable because input suppliers have shown interest in engaging smallholder farmers, to the extent of offering to deliver inputs to irrigation schemes as long as the quantities are large enough.

We will train the committees on issues such as market information gathering, negotiating with the market and transporters.

The sugar beans will be sold to an agro-processing company in Bulawayo (the second largest city in Zimbabwe) which has agreed to start buying and packaging sugar beans from the irrigation schemes for sale to the public. This will provide a guaranteed market for smallholder farmers in irrigation schemes.

They model is likely to lead to a reduction in rural to urban migration as rural folk can earn an income from their activities.


Over the years, I have realized that rural farmers are very capable of producing good quality produce that can meet market requirements, but they do face some constraints that they need help with.  The government, together with development partners, has been doing a lot of work towards rehabilitating existing irrigation schemes and building new ones in communal areas around the country.

InnocentSigwadiThese schemes are not being fully utilized. Farmers engage in methods that do not yield the best results, such as using seed retained from the previous season. Access to markets outside of their communities is poor so farmers end up consuming their produce instead of earning an income from it. However, there is a market that requires the produce but have no links with the producers.

Sugar beans are high in protein, which is good for household food security. Households can buy maize using the proceeds from the beans. The crop is good for the soil due to fixing of nitrogen, which benefits crops in rotation such as maize.


-recruit farmers in irrigation schemes to grow sugar beans and sign contracts
-train farmers on improved production
-purchase at discounted prices
-buy the produce after harvest

We have already found a market for sugar beans and discussed with a number of farmers about partnering with them. We have also discussed with suppliers of seeds, fertilizers and chemicals about accessing the inputs at discounted prices. We have started growing the crop to learn more lessons on how to achieve the best results


The success of the project will be measured by the number of farmers engaged, from training up to linking with the market, the number of hectares under production, the improvement in yield in number of tonnes per hectare from previous seasons and the income earned per farmer (household) from selling their beans. We will also check if there is an improvement in the yield of crops grown in the same plot after the sugar beans.


Blogpost and picture submitted by Innocent Sigwadi (Zimbabwe) – isigwadi[at]

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.

This post is published as proposal #312 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

The first selection of the winners will be based on the number of comments, likes and views each proposal gets.

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“YAP” is part of the #GCARD3 process, the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.

177 thoughts on “YAP Proposal #312: Improving yields and linking to markets (Innocent Sigwadi, Zimbabwe)”

  1. This project seems feasible and you have addressed all the questions that came to mind….. here’s to improving rural folk livelihood!

  2. This is a wonderful project that will definitely change people’s livelihoods and uplift communities. The methods and approach to be used are bound to work as they will link different stakeholders.

  3. This is a wonderful project that will definitely change people’s livelihoods and uplift communities. The proposed approach is ideal as it links everyone from rural farmers to established processing companies.

    1. thank you, the missing link is normally the marketing aspect, you sometimes find people stuck with produce that they cant sell, and they struggle to store it and it ends up going bad

  4. This is a timely solution in our country. I am convinced people’s livelihood will change for the better.

  5. Wow awesome stuff right there Sir. Go for it and make it happen for the people of Matabeleland n beyond. Well done

  6. A very good initiative..This project comes with inherent problems of pesticide use and potential harm to the environment. I hope you have structures in place to counter these.

    1. hi wisdom. we try to encourage minimum use of chemicals. farmers are managing small plots so they can do manual weeding instead of herbicides. the use of rotation also helps to control pests and diseases, thereby reducing the reliance on chemicals, also simple technics like having a “fire guard” around the field to reduce access to the crop by insects, etc. but there will be need to use some chemicals.

  7. Great initiative Mr Sigwadi.its very important to increase household income and food security for rural households as the government is trying to encourage more small scale farmers. My only concern is the number of small scale farmers in irrigation schemes in Matebeleland as this region is very dry. The more irrigation schemes the better for maximum impact

    1. thanks for the constructive comments bongani. yes i agree not every rural farmer can be part of an irrigation scheme for now. the gvt has said that irrigation is the way to go so we hope to see a lot of investment in setting up irrigation schemes. we will not limit ourselves to the schemes, later on we will promote production of crops which can do well without irrigation, such as the small grains, our idea is to start somewhere and grow from there. thanks

  8. Great initiative of market led production for smallholder farmers. With usually small plots, these farmers need careful economics to be profitable and that’s what Innocent Sigwadi is addressing! Wishing you the best in your quest to revitalise smallholder irrigation plot holders.

    1. thank you Bheki. very valid point, we need to manage the issue of profitability of the smallholder farmers’ enterprises. there may be other crops with better profit margins but without access to markets, so it may be better to do a crop with a guaranteed market and maximise on the yield

  9. Sound proposal in my opinion because it touches al the 3 components of Food Security namely Food Availability,Food Accessibility, and Food Utilisation.Not only that your proposal tries to follow the FAO links Framework.

      1. this link basically talks about the strong link between Food Availability,Access and Utilization..also underlines that Food Availability is not enough, it relies on Food Accessibilty.Food accessibility again does not guarantee Food security without Food Utilization.

  10. This is really a good innovation to empower the smallholder sector of Zimbabwe’s drier and poverty striken areas

    1. thank you Thabani, i wouldnt be totally honest if i saw i am the visionary, i have a mentor who is the real visionary and who guides me and encourages me not to give up when things are tough

  11. The search for the perfect venture can turn into procrastination. Your idea may or may not have merit. The key is to get started. This looks to me like the first step to restoring food security and the first step to resuscitate Bulawayo industry. I believe in it.

  12. I appreciate this initiative greatly as this will not only change the lives of the communal people but will ensure utilization of irrigation schemes which over the years have been under utilized by these farmers. This project is a chance to impart knowledge on other options as people are held by dogma of believing that if its not maize that is grown then you have not grown anything. It is also an opportunity to adapt to climate change and ensure sustainable use of natural resources in this case the soils will be nourished through out the sugar beans project thus improving the fertility. I would also suggest that farmers be taught om climate change, sustainable use of resources even as you are implementing this project. It is wholesome. All the best

    1. thank you wytbird. wow thats quite a lot of useful comments. i agree, we will have to include training on climate change and sustainable use of resources. our climate definitely is changing, and we cant run away from that, we had better find a way to deal with it

  13. Awesome stuff.Such thinking outside the box is the drive needed for this generation to impact and change set mindset and status quo….Bravo!!!!!

  14. That’s a very inspiring line of thought and worthy project. with this kind of thinking outside the box Zimbabwe will be hunger free inna space of three years. Keep up the good work

    1. thank you for your confidence. how wonderful it would be to achieve that, no more hunger in Zimbabwe within 3 years. nothing is impossible

    1. for a start the project will contract 60 farmers, but the training will be open to as many farmers as are interested. showing that it can work well will help to access many more resources for scaling up

    1. thank you tendai, we will see if these issues can be incorporated. our experience is that women are very active in irrigation schemes, they actually seem to do better than their male counterparts???

  15. We cannot still claim we are an agriculture economy if we dont support such initiatives.. #welldone Mr S .. im inspired

    1. thank you nyasha, i like the way you are thinking, start with a pilot, do it well, then scale it up round the country

  16. good project. how is the condition of the roads from the irrigation schemes to the market? will this affect delivery costs?

  17. i think the project can be implemented in other rural areas besides matabeleland only. good job

  18. good project sigwadi, it will help the people in the rural areas and also help with Byo companies to source raw materials locally

  19. i hope the project does not rely too much on use of chemicals which are not good for the environment

  20. can you teach farmers on conservation farming methods, which will conserve the precious little water, as well as the soil

  21. is it possible to set up local packaging plants, at a low cost, and still access the urban market. this may increase profits

    1. farmers have to be members of active irrigation schemes, they have to be recommended by the leadership committees and have a good history of production. we would like to have at least 50 percent women farmers

  22. good project for the poor people. how will you address the issue of side marketing/retaining produce for own consumption?

  23. good work. how many times in a year can the farmers grow sugar beans? what else will they do during the sugar beans “off-season?”

  24. great idea. how will this project contribute to addressing the high unemployment rate in Zimbabwe?

  25. thank you for coming up with a great project. where does the government extension staff come in, AGRITEX?

  26. good project. any space for university students to come on board for attachment? attachment places are hard to come by these days, they could learn a lot

  27. I think this is a much needed initiative and a great idea.I believe that through Agriculture we can change the fate of Zimbabwe and turn-around the economy.”With no farmers,there is no future”.

  28. Excellent initiative, if this first one can be a pilot for a national or regional project. Wish you the all the best!

  29. Hi. The issues are all true, these farmers can also produce seed for us as seed companies, and earn a premium on the income from sale of beans vs food crop. Seed fetches higher prices. Will be happy to work with you. We already work with small scale farmers to produce seed. My email

    1. Hi Mercy. thank you for the comment. i will certainly get in touch. the farmers would benefit from a market with higher prices.

  30. Well-done Inocent this is a very good and doable project. It is good because it is being undertaken in one of Zimbabwe’s most arid areas with low rainfal.
    It is doable because the famers themselves can easily identfy the benefits ie access to the market and food availabity.

    1. thank you very much, its not perfect but we are trying to have a project that covers all the gaps. this project should increase income and address the issue of vailability of food in the home. thank you

  31. great project. was just thinking you may need to get some help to ensure that the farmers will be treated well by the market

    1. we hope the contract will help to protect the interests of the farmers, but also of the market from issues such as side marketing of the harvested crop

  32. i dont have much experience with smallholders, but do they have the ability to produce good quality crops?

    1. smallholder farmers have the capacity to produce quality crops, just a look at the pictures that we have posted show a very good looking crop. with the right training and support, and given the fact that they manage small plots, they can do very well

  33. great work. although the impact could be limited because there is a limited number of irrigation schemes, and a limited number who can become part of the schemes. all the best

    1. great point. we will start with crops that need irrigation then venture to lower cost crops which can do well in dry land conditions. thanks

  34. i like the project, it is nice and simple, but sounds effective. howver, i think you may need more resources, $5000 may not be enough to do all the work that you have committed to doing, wish you all the best

  35. social issues will be critical, like encouraging farmers to use their income to pay school fees, maybe doing some career guidance for children, etc

  36. you could actually use the crop residue to feed livestock in the dry season? just a thought. all the best

  37. you will need to have a solid m&e plan in place, just so you can see how much progress you are making

  38. it would be great to link this to other enterprises which do not rely on irrigation. great initiative

    1. thank you sir, we also have ideas to pursue small livestock and other crops which a bit more drought tolerant

  39. Lot’s of households and downstream beneficiaries will benefit from this.

    We really need this in Matabeleland. Not much income & nutrition for general folk.

    I dont know the complexities involved, but would also go a long way including something for able-bodied, child-headed households.

    1. tahnk you for the constructive comment. we will definitely consider that issue of including child headed households. i guess we need a bit more information into how many such households we have in the region

    1. thank you very much. our dream is to address those very issues, food security and poverty. we hope our work can play a part in achieving that

  40. Excellent and well researched! I love it when Africans start providing solutions to Africa’s problems. Hats off to you Mr. Sigwadi!!

  41. Well done sir for your commitment to building our country! I hope you have put measures in place to combat side-marketing of produce by your farmers.

  42. Agriculture and people’s well – being has always been your passion.Keep pressing on towards the mark.Zimbabwe needs people like you to make a difference in the communities and country

  43. Great work IJ. I like the fact that you have ensured that the market is assured. This is where a lot of projects fail. Wonderful that you also have clear figures to support the project… clearly knows what s/he is getting into.

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