By Cliff Chiduku
MOST farmers have traditionally viewed farming as a way of life rather than a business venture that can transform lives. However, the Second Republic led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has transformed the agriculture, starting with changing the mindset of farmers. Everything starts in the mind.
A business-oriented farmers approached farming with a strategic mindset and long-term goals in mind. The understand that farming is not just about production, but meeting market demands in a sustainable manner. With the increasing demand for food and the potential for profitability, many farmers are now looking to turn their farms into successful businesses.
This transition requires careful planning, strategic decision-making, and a deep understanding of the agricultural industry. Today we will explore the various steps that should be considered turning 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 researching market trends, consumer demands, and potential gaps in the market. If a farmer manages to identify a gap and plugs it, then profit is likely to be realised. By focusing on a specific niche, farmers can differentiate themselves from competitors and target a specific customer base. Some examples of profitable niches in farming include organic produce, specialty crops, value-added products (such as jams or cheeses), or niche livestock production (such as free-range poultry or heritage breeds). The livestock sub-sector is too broad, the farmer should choose exactly what they want to specialise in. For example, Terrance Maphosa has managed to transform his farming venture in Village 6 in 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 farm’s operations and outlines its 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 secure financing, but also provides guidance for decision-making and growth.
Turning farming into a business often requires significant upfront investment in land, inputs, chemicals, equipment, infrastructure, and working capital. Securing financing is essential to cover these costs and ensure smooth operations of the business. Farmers can explore various financing options such as loans from agricultural banks or credit unions, subsidies, contract farming, or partnerships with investors. There are several banks in Zimbabwe that support farming with loans. It is important to carefully evaluate the terms and conditions of each financing option to ensure it aligns with the farm’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 farm’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.
Implementing good agronomic practices
Efficiency is key to running a successful farming business. 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 application of fertilizers, chemicals, weeding, among others. It also includes optimizing crop rotation, implementing integrated pest management strategies, and utilizing sustainable farming practices to minimize environmental impact.
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 programs, 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 also be powerful tools for promoting the farm’s products 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 farmers, joining agricultural associations, unions or cooperatives, 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 undoing of indigenous farmers is that they don’t want to acquire new knowledge. However, the agricultural 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 enroll to enhance their farming skills.
The government has put in place several programmes to capacitate locals to enhance their skills, so it is upon farmers to play ball. The government has since established more than 30 village business units across the country under the Presidential Rural Development Programme and is being implemented by Zinwa, Arda and the Agricultural Marketing Authority.
Farmers should now change their approach to farming and adopt new technologies and modern farming techniques so that they increase production and profitability. None but ourselves can transform our country. Until next week!
Word from the market is a column produced by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) to promote market-driven production. Feedback firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp/Call +263781706212.