Sunday, October 22, 2017

Making a living through agriculture

Despite the challenges, Eve does not regret

Despite the challenges, Eve does not regret investing in agribusiness as she believes it is a gold mine whose potential is yet to be tapped. PHOTOSI COURTESY. 

By Devotha John

Reaching one’s goals in life has never been an easy task. It involves passing through rocky paths and one has to keep trying until they realise their dream. And this is exactly true of Eve Daudi,34, an upcoming agricultural entrepreneur.

Since her childhood, Eve had an ambition of becoming a successful entrepreneur in agriculture. And thanks to her perseverance and tireless efforts, the Sinza-Mori resident, is now on the path towards achieving her life-long dream.

Her ambition of making it big in the sector derives from the fact that she is who she is today because of agriculture. She was brought up by her peasant mother following her father’s death when she was still a little girl.

It is through agriculture that Eve and her siblings were able to go to school, which is why she had an interest in venturing into the sector.

The fifth born in a family of six, Eve who was born in Magu, Mwanza in 1983 appreciates the fact that her family survived through agriculture. All their needs from food, clothing, education, you name it, were met thanks to her mother’s hard work on the farm. Eve and her siblings used to help her till the land during the holidays and thank God they never lacked.

“Because agriculture was our livelihood, I thought it would be okay if I chose agriculture for a living in future. I thank God I have so far realised my dream and I have no regrets,” says a proud Eve, now a wife and a mother of a six-year-old child.

Unlike her mother who was a hand hoe farmer, Eve does it a little bit different today. She does her farming in a much better way, and plans to stop depending on the unpredictable and unreliable weather patterns by practising irrigation in future.

When she completed high school in 2005, Eve who had studied Physics, Geography and Mathematics did not secure a government’s loan to proceed to university. She wanted to pursue a degree course in business administration.

“After I failed to get a study loan I enrolled at the Open University of Tanzania for a Business Administration course where I paid for my studies,” says Eve.

Eve used to work for a jewelry shop where she used to earn Sh 50,000 a month. She asked her employer to help her pay for her initial fees and deduct the money from her salary. Having studied Maths in high school, Eve used to teach secondary school students during her spare time to augment her income. The extra money she earned helped her through her education.

“In 2008 I got a job at the then Airtel mobile phone company where I worked in the customer care department,” says Eve.

Six years later, Eve was among the over 186 employees who lost their jobs following downsizing. Since she was paid her terminal benefits, she thought it was the right time to pursue her dream to invest in agribusiness. She now could buy land for farming.

“After I received my benefits I embarked on agriculture with full force. It was something that I enjoyed doing and thought could change my life,” says Eve.

She bought five acres of land in Vigwaza Ward in Coast Region and established a pineapple farm. Things were not easy in the beginning since the farm was always invaded by monkeys. This did not deter the young woman as she did all she could to make sure her project ran smoothly.

“I used to spend the whole day on the farm to deal with the irate animals. It was not an easy task but thanks to neighbours who also found a need of joining hands in fighting against the beasts, we managed putting them under control” she notes.

The same year Eve tried her hand on sesame farming, which was at the time highly paying, expecting a good yield. Unfortunately, things did not go as anticipated as she ended up harvesting only six bags.

Eve’s life as a farmer took a new twist in 2015 when she participated in Oxfam Tanzania’s Mama Shujaa competition searching for a role model woman in feeding the starving population, where she emerged number five. She got the opportunity through a WhatsApp group. The group’s administrator had sent the members a form and encouraged them to take part in the competition. Eve grabbed the opportunity and the rest was history.

Mama shujaa wa chakula

Mama Shujaa is Oxfam Tanzania’s Television series involving women farmers, which highlights the gender inequalities this demographic faces and demonstrates women’s value in the industry. Mama Shujaa wa Chakula, or Female Food Heroes, brings 18 women to live together for three weeks to engage in various farming competitions, and grants the show’s winner an opportunity to expand her operations. Though women make up 75 percent of Tanzania’s farmers, they often live in poverty and their contributions are often overlooked.

Through Mama Shujaa, Eve was chosen to participate in the Rural Farmers Forum in Ethiopia in 2015, a time during which she was elected President of the forum. Rural Agricultural Forum is an open forum and a movement for change working to make agro-food research and innovation more effective, responsible and equitable towards achieving sustainable development outcomes.

“My participation at the forum made me realise I had something to do in my society,” she says.

The forum uplifted her spirit especially given that she was slowly starting to lose hope in the business, given the challenges. The forum helped her to be an inspiration to other women aspiring to invest in the sector.

Her being selected as the fifth winner of the Mama Shujaa competition opened up many opportunities for her including trips to attend agriculture-related meetings and trainings within and outside the country. Eve has visited Ethiopia, USA, Italy, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana.

Through Mama Shujaa, Eve has been a role model to both youth and women who look up to her as someone who dared to venture into agriculture and managed to face all the challenges and is earning a living through the sector.

Through Oxfam, Eve has also participated in different seminars and workshops aimed at fighting for the rights of small scale farmers. She also was among women who climbed Mt Kilimanjaro to highlight women’s land ownership right.

Apart from being proud she dared to venture into the sector shunned by many, Eve has had her share of challenges. The major one being conned at the beginning of her journey into agribusiness. Eve was made to believe she had bought ten acres, which is what she paid for to later realise she had been given only half of what she bargained for.

Apart from her crops being destroyed by animals like monkeys, Eve, has also lost a good part of her yield to unpredictable weather due to climate change.

Challenges aside. Eve was among this year’s Malkia wa Nguvu award winners, an award that recognises women who go out of their way to bring about change in society. She won in the agribusiness category.

Although she does not regret investing in agriculture, Eve cautions that one has to be careful when it comes to selling their produce. Timing, she says is very important lest you end up selling at a loss. When the market is flooded for example, she puts sales on hold for a while.

She sells her crops at Tandale, Mabibo and Ubungo markets where she says prices keep fluctuating.

“We only get customers at these markets who buy our crops at throw away prices,” she laments adding that prices get better when customers buy directly from the farm.

Her secret to success? Never give up, she says.

Email: djohn@tz.nationmedia.com

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