YAP Proposal #319: A Cinderella Kind of Farming (Chanda Mutale, Zambia)

picmix-39.530My name is Chanda Mutale I am a 30 year old Zambian Male, I work as a Relationship Manager in a Non Bank Financial Institution. Well, about my background, it’s a bit complicated, I have B.A in History for my first degree, I am a trained Banker and a recent Msc Economic History graduate. But to peel away the complication, I am a market gardener ( I sometimes find farmer to mean completely something else) in short I am an Agripreneur at heart.

My Cinderella Story

I have always loved farming, I wanted to study Agricultural Science at undergraduate but I was discouraged by most people around me. That did not discourage me from following my passion. I went on to start growing vegetables after I completed my studies. I have sold it all ; carrots, green beans, okra, rape, egg plants ( at times even carried the produce in small plastics in my back pack). I spent almost all of my first salary on fencing for raising local chickens, along the way I also made a lot of mistakes, lost crops even bought wrong equipment. Believe me I have tried to pump water from a well using a booster pump( I guess it’s true what they say that knowledge is power).

It is because of all these hardships that I encountered  from the onset that I like to refer to my farming endeavours as a Cinderella story. I largely did not get any help in terms technical or financial guidance, or any form of mentorship. It was simply my passion and drive for farming that kept me going. Nevertheless, my Cinderella experience taught me a lot of things, like persistence in following one’s passion. But something even more profoundly significant happened during this phase…

I met the real Cinderellas

Despite all the challenges I seem to have faced , I must not neglect to mention that I have had access to family land, and that has made my journey to Agripreneurship much easier. It was when I hired some landless squatter women to help with the gardening, that I then realised that they are the real Cinderellas of any farming story. These are women who do not have access to farmland but occasionally buy vegetables for resale , ironically on farm plots which they worked on as hired labour. More often than not, they do not even have money to purchase these vegetables for cash and very few farmers are willing to give the produce to them on credit.

I decided to do something about it

My interactions with these Cinderella women taught me a lot, these women fetch water, firewood, look after their husbands and children, work as farm hands and on top of that also work as traders reselling vegetables to sustain their families. But capital is a major challenge for them. So after completing my master’s degree and being temporarily out of employment, I scrapped my savings together and installed a drip irrigation system of roughly an acre. When I started growing tomatoes, I invited the Cinderella women to purchase the tomatoes on credit and pay after they resale. And alas, it worked! A number of women came on board, but the challenge came when I got a full time job and I had problems with monitoring repayments. So I decided to experiment with a mobile payment solution and the women could deposit the repayments in my mobile money account. We were back in business.

But then I noticed also that the women have to carry heavy loads of tomatoes crates from the farm to the point of sale. Again, the mobile phone did the trick, my “farm Manager” ( of course this is a cousin who is permanently at the farm and get a commission) broadcasts a text message to them whenever he is doing a harvest. In this way, they all show up at the same time and it is easy for them to pool money and organise a light truck for transportation.

picmix-54.904No midnight clocks

I believe I have found an approach that allows more landless women to earn some extra income from vegetable sales than would otherwise be possible. And truth be told, these women actually play an indispensible role in the smallholder agricultural produce distribution chain. And what would break my heart after I have started this would be for these Cinderella women to have a 12 o’clock midnight Cinderella moment when I am not around to do this. I would love for this approach to continue even after I move on to my next challenge. The incorporation of the mobile phone payment system, credit terms and pooling for transport has proved successful with 15 women on board, now I need to make it sustainable. So I am now working with my “programme manager” to replicate this with neighbouring farms.

Tying it all together

Of course there is no Cinderella story that ends without a prince charming. On the second phase of this pilot I want to set up a small green house (this my fancy word for a basic pole and shading structure ) for seed production. I have come to learn that some of these women have husbands and brothers who control certain pieces of land though not on title. The problem is that these men have little technical knowhow and plant low yield varieties, indirectly disadvantaging the women who sale on their behalf. By providing these men with improved hybrid seedling varieties on credit, I will help raise the incomes of these men and perhaps this can trickle down to the women who buy from them for resale.

Another challenge that these men who garden on small “illegal” plots face is that even when they have some good quality vegetable to sell, it is at times difficult for them to find a good market. They can’t sell to supermarkets or fresh produce off takers because they have a set minimum standard in terms of quantity and packaging. The solution… is that we start our own” Green Shop” to supply fresh produce , pool resources for rentals and managing the shop then let it run on that basis. My idea is that farmers can continuously supply their produce then get payment on a weekly or fortnightly basis less their rent and management contribution.

Plug Play and Repeat

Once this model is fully functional, I will put up more drip lines to increase capacity on the current site then move on to another part of town where I have access to traditional land, drill a borehole install an acre of drip then replicate the same model. Thus goes my strategic plan for the mentoring and $ 5,000; more drips on current location, small green house for seedlings and then a” Green Shop” to sort out the selling end. I plan to replicate the same model in several locations in 18 months. I am confident that with this model I can help create many happy ending Cinderella stories out there. I am convinced that the real heroines of our time in this fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease are the hard working women who strive to feed, educate and nurse their families against all odds.

 

Blogpost and picture submitted by Chanda Mutale (Zambia) – chandamt[at]yahoo.com

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


This post is published as proposal #319 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

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164 thoughts on “YAP Proposal #319: A Cinderella Kind of Farming (Chanda Mutale, Zambia)

    1. This is a great innovation. If well managed, has the potential to change the welfare of women and children. Am particularly inspired by the fact that the blogger has followed his passion. He is doing what he loves, unlike others who do business because the neighbour is doing somthing similar.

      A suggestion: the blogger should separate the business from himself. Register it and give himself a salary. This is highly likely to render the business a success.

    2. Very inspirational Chanda. I relate to your project because I am one of the people who used to buy your vegetables. Your Cindirella story if replicated at other farms can change the story of many families. Well done.

    3. Good things do not come easily ,.This is an awake up call to all youths including elder ones. no body feeds us than our selves. you have my support.

  1. We hope that you continue to help these women with your products and provide high quality seedling varieties…inspired and motivated by your cinderella story…

  2. This is a frontier for agricultural development and I like how you are encorporating the locals in your ideas. Agriculture is all about techniques and new ideas, and having a background in agriculture myself, I can assure u will leave an imprint. Well done!!

  3. Well done. This is what we need in Zambia and among Zambian youths. Very brilliant and inspiring and you are a role model. Keep going and the sky is the limit

  4. A very well thought out agriplan by an educated young man. We need more of these young agriprenuers to spur up agriculture as a major driving force of an economy. I am inspired by the idea to empower not only himself but his target market as well. In this way his contribution to the economy is much more significant. Felicitation Chanda!

  5. Quiet remarkable story Chanda. Really encouraging to read and learn that there are youths out there who are able to put their time and resources to good use.

  6. I really like this concept, sounds like a more well thought out CTC. And the need to empower women in sub Saharan Africa can not be over emphasized, well done. However I have a question, how do you intend to treat cases where for instance the women fail to pay back the money on time for various reasons *As was the case in South East Asia* where a somewhat similar model was used, some women could not pay back in time and it led to sucide for some while others resorted to more borrowing.

    1. Misschilufya, thank you for your comment. I agree with you I remember reading about what you are talking about in South East Asia, I think Andra Pradesh* . Yes advancing credit terms if not regulated can cause debt stress and in unfortunate events even suicide among recipients. But this is usually the case for purely consumer based kind of lending which is not the case in this model. No actual case is advanced here, the produce in this case the tomatoes already creates a source of repayment hence this is a kind of “self liquidating” debt. During peak periods these women are able to repay within two days, so far there has been no default.

  7. It’s true that the women who work tirelessly against all odds to feed their families in such a manner are little thought of by society. I think it’s a great idea you’ve got there!

  8. Great innovation worth replicating in many parts of the country. I like your idea of using the women at your point of sell. It is no secret that women are a great resource in most Zambian families striving to support and sustain the wellbeing of their children and extended family

  9. This is a great initiative. I am impressed with the way your project is impacting the lives of small scale bussiness women and your usage of modern technology.

  10. Waaaaaaaaw! This young man has a passion for farming and an urge to see people, especially women assisted as they go about doing business. His ideas are great and the objective clear,realistic and achievable. You can tell from what he has done so far that he is action oriented, seizes opportunities and a risk taker. Given an opportunity he can make a wow thing out of something small. If we could have so many

    young men and women with such brilliant ideas ……. life would be less stressful knowing that our children will continue being innovative and ultimately the effects of such innovations would be seen as our country
    develop and mind sets changing. I believe
    that with such passion the young man will be
    able to inculcate such an approach to life to
    his friends, siblings and of course those that
    value the work that he is doing. I personally
    think that this will go a long way given the support. I have been inspired and the young man needs to be supported. May the goid lord continue blessing the works of Mutale Chanda’s hands. Thank you.

  11. Nice to read about the great opportunity you are providing these Cinderella women.
    Wishing you all the best going forward!

  12. Great initiative, you are truly an agripreneur. Great innovation. We need young people like you to push the Zambia Agenda. Good job, for empowering the women.

  13. Nice to read about the great opportunity you are providing these Cinderella women. Very inspiring.
    Wishing you all the best going forward!

  14. Great initiative, Agripreneuer at heart indeed. It is an inspiring Cinderella story especially that it is a reality. I am so touched by the fact that you do not only think of your own business sustainability but also the livelihood of the women that you work with. It no secret that when you empower a woman in Zambia, you empower the whole household.
    It would also be good that as you replicate your work in other areas, you encourage the men and women you work with to take a step towards ‘owning’ the ‘illegal’ land so that it does not become a midnight incidence of the Cinderella story………

    1. I agree with you completely Carol, land rights in Zambia are still a major issue which needs to be looked into, women especially are seriously disadvantaged

  15. Great work. So inspiring to see the impact on the women. Women are usually overlooked. You empower a woman you empower the whole household. Sustainable capacity building. Keep it up

  16. It is truly inspiring to see young people put their hand to the plow and make a difference in our society instead of waiting for someone to hand them their future..Keep moving.

  17. Quite encouraging, I must say this is one of the greatest forms of innovation and creativity. thumbs up.

  18. That’s very brilliant. You are visionary and an insipiration to both old and youth. With ideas like this vulnerable people of Africa could be saved. Go man! You don’t have any limit.

  19. I am in awe, don’t even know what to say. This is truly inspiring and encouraging. You are a passionate Agripreneur Chanda Mutale, looove what you are doing for the women, looove what you are doing in general, keep up with the good work.

  20. Amazing, well thought and practical…Zambia needs a face lift in the agriculture sector and with more such ideas and considerations for the target market, we could see great economic progression. Inspirational!

  21. mazing, well thought and practical…Zambia needs a face lift in the agriculture sector and with more such ideas and considerations for the target market, we could see great economic progression. Inspirational!

  22. Nothing short of amazing. You are an inspiration Mr. Mutale. Our Economy needs more such projects. Keep it up!

  23. Great story! I hope everything you have planned works out, it could really ,make a big difference to a lot of struggling women and families out there. Plus we shouldn’t be importing vegetables.

  24. Practical and easy (acknowledging the hardwork, of course).. a breath of fresh air from the usual ‘no funding, government must help etc’ youth stories.

  25. Excellent! with this mindset sustainable development is certain. Keep it up and wishing you all the best

  26. Good work indeed and also like the issue of you considering the women to work with you first. you are so inspiring and that its all because of young people like you, our society in future will definitely change for the betterment. Good luck in your achievements my dear.

  27. Mr. Chanda Mutale you are always an inspiration. Innovation is an understatement. Continue with those brilliant ideas and one day you will be the biggest Agripreneur and everybody will want to be associated with you. Stay blessed……

  28. This is quite impressive… The story reminds of Muhammed Yunus [Hope you can google this name and read his story]. You can be a game changer to the majority suffering Zambian women. Do not hesitate to seek for our support. Keep up the good work!

  29. This is Laudable. Great Initiative. I pray that you find the means for its sustainability even beyond this Forum. Heaven smile on your desire to make this world a better place Sir. Chanda Mutale

  30. Yep! this YAP chap indeed does have a truly hands on approach to poverty alleviation. Instead of sitting on his academic laurels like many of us have been known to do, he put all that aside, folded his sleeves and got down to doing the real work with the Earth in the furtherance of The Agrarian Revolution in his small way with the help of very hard working women. The critical role that women play in maintaining households has been largely overlooked and with this piece, Mutale Chanda highlights it clearly and brings it into context. It is crucial that Financial institutions involved in micro-financing come on board and see how they can positively contribute in this project so as to give YAP and these women the much needed boost and encouragement. It is also my considered view that, the Business Community equally could have a positive role to play in this fight against poverty that afflicts the grassroots and the most affected of whom are the vulnerable women. kudos to Mutale Chanda and YAP and may they continue with the good work.

    1. Thank you so much Namakando. You are right. If we could get financial institutions fully embedded into the Zambian agricultural sector a lot of things would change for the better, especially for the small holder farmers

  31. This has made some very interesting reading Chanda I will definitely take a leaf from your story and apply the few lessons to my own life..

  32. This is a very good initiative, we need more people like you out here. Keep up the good work and good luck

  33. Its really a good initiative Way to go Chanda am inspired..keep up the good work and all the Best..

  34. This is a very good initiative especially that it involves and aims at empowering women. Am sure when it pulls through it will empower many more women thereby improving their livelihold including their families. Keep it up.

  35. Your project is an inspiration to many young people. We shouldn’t just rely on white collar jobs when we have so many options like this to explore. With such determination your project will surely succeed and trickle down to the masses around you. Best wishes

  36. A huge and potentially liberating niche in the agriculture sector and a story told very artfully. These Cinderellas are king-makers doing their thing in oblivion. It is good to see the value you have identified in them.

  37. A fantastic agri initiative, your approach to irrigation is effieicie my and fantastic. More interesting is your engange ment of the female population into te value addition process. Your got your math right!!! Lovely small scale entrprenueral model..

  38. Quite interesting stuff that u ve highlighted in your proposal. U have done justice to the issues I must admit. My concern is that do you have a plan to empower others with skills and knowledge in agrinureship??? All the best in this Cinderella tale

    1. Yes John, I think there is a lot of knowledge spill over inherent in such interactions with such women and other farmers, I hope it can also be a platform for bringing farmers to help share ideas. Thank you for pointing this out John.

  39. Great stuff and so inspiring… Keep on keeping up my man. Am glad you are living the dream of making this world a more better place. Way to go

  40. This was such a good read!so refreshing to see a hardworking young man who actually cares about bettering his community and lending a helping hand..Very very impressive initiative!Helping these women improve their lives and their business is quite admirable! They truly are the real cinderellas and they have such a strong work ethic and get so little in return..your passion is inspiring Chanda!rooting for you to reach your goals!

  41. Go Chanda. The sky is the limit. You are definitely going big. I would urge you to buy as much land as you can so you can expand your dream with no limitation. So proud of you

  42. This is a very interesting project Chanda… I think you should register this as a business and start earning some real money for yourself… What motivated you to do this… As a youth it is not easy to venture into farming… You are inspiring…. Keep up the good work..

    1. Much appreciated Brian, true that , I am slowing moving towards full formalisation as the model progresses . Its all about passion Brian, passion is more important than any thing.

  43. This makes me happy! Nowadays we hear about people who try to help out others in the fight against poverty, and this is an actual example how ones can make a real change! I admire you strong belief, interest and passion! I admire hard work of all cinderellas in Zambia and I guess in many many other countries! Wish you never give up in pursuing your plans despite any challenges!

    1. Thank you Dela, yes the problems of poverty and employment faced in Zambia are not uncommon in other parts of the developing world. Even though we cannot change everything overnight, we can change some things one at a time.

  44. I am so wowed with this project…I long for a Zambia where the youth become their own bosses and help develop our country… Would you recommend more youths to engage in agricultural based activities as opposed to formal employment? Keeping in mind the changing climate in our country. Is it practical now with the uncertainty of the rains to puts our eggs in the agricultural basket?

    1. Hi Maggie, you are right about the changing climate patterns, but I think this also presents an opportunity for us think of other means of farming like practical irrigation options and also considerations for sustainability in terms of land use. I think our days of the copper spoon are gone as can be seen from the shocks that our economy has recently exposed to.

  45. I am curious…This project appears to be on a large scale and you studied history. Is there any person(s) who has helped you with advice regarding farming…How do you do it?

    1. Its interesting Maggie that after I studied History I came to understand the land and labour issues of our region ,how they affect agriculture productivity, for example even issues of difficulties of accessing title for small holders, the gender considerations from a historical perspective and all that. You will find the “history” of NAMBOARD interesting too as regards maize marketing compared to our current situation. In short the history component of my training has been very helpful.

      I have received a lot of help from my mother, my cousin(farm manager-fancy title eh) a lot of other people too in my professional and personal life unlike when i started out. I must say though the project is kind of still in its infancy.

      Thank you for the thoughtful engagement Maggie

  46. Goes to show that young people can make a change even in difficult circumstances… Pure inspiration…. Is this model workable with livestock ??

    1. Bobby, I think this could work just as well with livestock especially on the value chain side. It is one of the fundamental challenges of the Zambian livestock sector that most abattoirs and processing centres are foreign owned , while this may not be a bad thing, it limits how much the locals can earn from their livestock if they took part in the processing and got linked to the market directly. Southern province is a case in point, but this work equally well through out the country, we have so much disease free land.

  47. Good job my brother from another mother. When I grow up I will be just like you. For now I have a little garden am practising on. Lol

  48. Terrific initiative. Harks to the work of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. May you be blessed in this selfless endeavour that will surely raise the most vulnerable in society from crippling poverty

  49. Good work, Brother! Hopefully, you or somebody else will make use of your project for a PhD thesis. Best of luck!

  50. Brilliant and inspiring project this, so refreshing to see so much passion in a field beneficial to the average small scale farmer and the typical zambian mother en wife at large.. God speed and keep on

  51. 👏👏👏thumbs up bro and we need more people of your kind…agriculture is the only key and the fact you have these hardworking women at heart Is just sensational..anytime you wish to host a workshop or conferences please find a way to inform us this has realy captured our atention and God wil surely reward you.wishing best of luck

  52. A well thought and laid out plan. Thumbs up to this young agripreneur indeed. . And more still, the empowerment of the women.
    Our country needs more young intellectuals who have the heart and passion to make it a better place.

    Well done Chanda, highly impressed and inspired. #Never doubted you for a second.

  53. There is this tendency in our country( I guess it could true for most countries-both developing and developed) that agriculture is for the old, retired citizens! Now to see a young man be meshed into it with such passion is not only inspiring but also refreshing!! What is also impressive about Chanda’s idea is the embedded synergies in the value that seem to empower the clients, and if well managed, offers the rock foundation needed for much needed African green revolution! The green shop, with time, could easily become the national-multinational agric shop! Great idea Chanda and wish u the best!!

  54. Thank you for the response Chanda…as someone leaving on the Copperbelt I understand only too well that we can no longer rely on copper …. You have to admit however that irrigation is a fairly new concept to Zambian farmers… How easy is irrigation for the next farmer??? The widow trying to feed her family and make some money in the dawn of this climate change? Is it something you discuss with the women you work with?

    1. Hi Maggie, I agree with you irrigation can be costly for an average Zambian woman farmer especially with competing priorities in the midst of limited finances. But I think this is also an issue of policy direction and preference for government and other NGOs involved in the field. I can’t claim to know it all but I am of the view that with advancements made in technology, most irrigation options have become relatively cheaper,and players in the development space can take advantage of this and enhance agriculture by subsiding irrigation equipment. Four years ago (in that pic) the only way I knew to irrigate was with a horse pipe from a stream, but now am privileged to use drip. And indeed these women do ask questions and learn about the possibilities of other means of irrigation. Thank you Maggie

  55. Great idea Chanda! I hope your dedication and willingness to help your country will be noticed and awarded!!! I wish you all the best!

  56. This is great Mr Mutale we hve all these women who sometimes hve to spend their capital money to feed the family n they hve nowhere to start from the next day so this is good stuff getn on credit

  57. Great work, We need more of such agility and enterprenenurial minds in Africa to drive development and food security.

  58. Wow..this is very inspirational. Your desire to follow your passion is now changing lives. I see the lives of those 15 families changing for the better.!! We need such more of entrepreneurship skills to boost economic growth especially that agricultural sector is key to national development and ensuring food security .

  59. Hey

    Job well done and emphasising the importance of self reliance. I am in complete awe and this sort of action is what will move us to eliminating poverty.

    Thank you for bringing positive change that we and the rest of the young people can aspire to.

  60. Wow this is great. If there is something we have learnt from 2015 it is the need to diversify the Zambian economy. This agripreneurship is definitely a step in the right direction. Well done Chanda. You are doing what a lot of young Zambians and Africans should be doing

  61. Interesting plan you have. Points worth noting:-
    1. Improving livelihood of women and neighbouring farmers.
    2. Improving the quality of crop produced by neighbouring farmers
    3. By doing (2) quantity of combined harvest increases hence possibility of packaging and mass supply to supermarkets.
    4. By doing (3) importation of vegetables is greatly reduced.

  62. Love, Love, Love, Love it!! Great work you are doing Chanda, this is really inspiring. All the best in your submission, this is such a great initiative.

  63. This is great. my brother you are on the right track. agriculture has the potential to make you a billionnare . continue with the same spirit

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