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Zimbabwean young agric innovators win at regional Innovation and Rural Transformation Expo

Story by Justin Mahlahla

Three Zimbabwean agriculture innovators have been nominated for sponsorship at the SADC Innovation and Rural Transformation Fair held in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The fair ran from the 27th to the 28th of September 2023.

The initiative, which follows the Kinshasa declaration on rural transformation from the African Rural Development Forum, aims to support national and regional efforts in favor of rural development.

The event provided a platform for 100 young innovators from Southern Africa to showcase their pioneering projects in food security and rural development.

The three innovations nominated for sponsorship are IFarm, led by Simon Nyabudza, Zoro neMugoti led by Zororo Taruvinga and Greats ICT led by Innocent Munyaradzi.

Greats Systems creates softwares that allow users to have databases of farmers and their produce. Their systems make it easier for service providers in the value chain to connect to farmers’s demands in real time.

IFAam has artificial intelligence technologies that carry out remote sensing for climate change and risk mitigation, and also allows for early warning systems for diseases, adverse weather conditions like hail, optimal irrigation scheduling and much more.

They also conduct digital soil analysis to appreciate which areas are most conducive for specific crops understand how soils naturally provide nutrients for wild trees and vegetation.

Zoro neMugoti started producing new food products that are now available on the market. They make use of indigenous products such as Usika (Tamarind), Mawuyu (Baobab), Tsomo, Castor oil and mazhanje, among others. They also promote traditional grains usage in the value chains.

Out of 100 innovators from 16 countries who participated and exhibited, 20 won, of which three are from Zimbabwe.

In his remarks, the Chief Programmes Coordinator Agricultural Youth Desk, Mr Nickros Kajengo, who also accompanied the youths to the DRC expo, said that the event helps in promoting sustainable rural development and create new opportunities for young people and women living in rural areas.

“This event provided a platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration between SADC member countries, with the aim of fostering innovative solutions to improve living conditions in member states. We are happy with the support from our government principals. His Excellency, the President Cde Dr E.D Mnangagwa, the Honourable Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr A.J Masuka the Permanent Secretary, Dr J. Basera and his capable senior managers have done us great justice and this is a huge step in the vision 2030 direction,” he said.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr John Basera was equally excited by the developments.

“We are really excited that our young innovators are raising the ZimFlag high at the Exposition. We have been working with the young innovators through the incredible Youth Desk at Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development.

“At the core of the Agriculture Transformation Process, lies innovation and Agritech. These are fundamental ingredients that will take the sector to the next level. We are excited that the youths are leading in this respect. This in itself will attract more youths into the agricultural sector. It is fundamental that we tap the enthusiasm, tech savy, risk appetite by the youth demography and derive demographic dividend,” he said.

“Youths constitute 62% of our population and yet it is a fact that there’s no economy which will grow without participation of 62% of its population.

“Agritech and agricultural innovations will crowd in more youths in the sector and leapfrog the sector to the next level through upscaling production efficiencies and ultimately competitiveness.

“Congratulations are in order to the young innovators and to our team representing ZimAgric at the Expo. We are excited,” added Dr Basera.

The regional opportunity for knowledge sharing between SADC member countries aims to promote collaboration and the emergence of concrete solutions to improve living conditions in rural areas.

Organised by the African Union Development Agency (AUDA), the New Partnership for African Economic Development (NEPAD) and the World Food Programme, the show focused on sustainable rural development, unemployment and underemployment of young people and women living in rural areas.

SADC, which has 16 member states, has the mission of promoting economic growth and sustainable and equitable socio-economic development in the region.

Through initiatives such as the innovation and rural transformation fair, SADC seeks to strengthen regional cooperation and integration while promoting good governance and lasting peace.

The expo, therefore, constitutes an important step in the implementation of the recommendations of the African Rural Development Forum and represents a unique opportunity to mobilise the necessary resources to support rural development projects and programmes in the region.

The Government of Zimbabwe on the 4th of July 2023, through a post Cabinet briefing, announced the formalisation of Youth Desks in order to mainstream youth in the mainstay economy.

This is in synch with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call to make Zimbabwe an upper middle income society by 2030.

In 2022 and 2023, Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development principals, Honourable Minister, Dr A.J Masuka and Permanent Secretary, Dr John Basera were extolled for their outstanding contribution towards economic empowerment, food security and agricultural production.

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