While agriculture remains the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy, many young people are opting for limited office jobs ahead of a career in farming.
But that cannot be said of Ruramiso Mashumba, a horticulture farmer who is among 60 young Zimbabweans taking part in the Mandela Washington Fellowship this year.
Mashumba, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture Business Management from the University of West England, runs a farm in Marondera that feeds domestic, continental as well as European markets.
She is especially passionate about indigenous organic grains that include a rice variety known as Oryza glaberrima, which is native to Zimbabwe and is at risk of extinction.
“My grandmother grew up growing the rice in the rural communal areas but she never really commercialized it, and it’s in demand; people can’t find it,” says Mashumba.
“So I took it upon myself as an opportunity to not only grow it in order to conserve it but… also an opportunity to take care of the soil using conservation agriculture methods.”
While Zimbabwe is traditionally a farming nation, Mashumba says many youths see agriculture as a dirty job; the main reason being that most farms are off the grid.
“I live in a rural community where many people don’t want to live because the infrastructure is not as good as in the cities. Access to many things is not as great,” Mashumba tells VOA Studio 7.
Zimbabwe is facing a severe economic crisis that has decimated jobs, resulting in more than 90 percent unemployment, according to independent estimates.
But Mashumba believes “agriculture has vast opportunities that young people tap into. It’s not only about literally tilling the land,” she says.
“Look at what skills you have; if you’re into engineering, we need people to design equipment. If you’re passionate about marketing, technology, there is an opportunity that you exploit.”
Mashumba, who will study business at the Iowa University for the six-week Mandela Washington Fellowship, is also chairperson of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union youth wing, the first female to hold the post in 75 years.
And she believes the opportunity will help her broaden her scope of farming as a business. “This is an amazing opportunity, a great honor.”
Currently, she is working on a project that educates women and youths in her community on climate change, smart agriculture and nutrition.