Mavis Zaina: Slaying From accounting to agriculture

Mavis Zaina is a chartered accountant with over 8 years’ experience in strategic management, accounting and finance.

But beyond her accountancy, Mavis is passionate about the agricultural value chain and its potentially high impact reach for poverty alleviation and development. Driven by this passion, Mavis founded Kanjadza Acres.

Kanjadza Acres is an agricultural enterprise that grows fruits and vegetables together with employing 10 locals. Mavis’ overall aim is to become a world-class entity participating in the end to end agricultural value chain. Through this, she hopes to create jobs and wealth for her community and eventually Africa.

What made you desire to start a business in agriculture?

I have always been fascinated by the agricultural value and the impact and change it has on an economy and its people. Specifically, I decided to focus on horticulture because of its high productivity and value.

With this passion, I launched my agribusiness journey. It has been quite exciting as the margins made are good and the products are often demanded and used daily in my community.

How friendly is the Malawian business environment to young female horticulturists? 

I think the business environment is challenging. The value chain is highly informal so the hustle is real to find market information that drives production and this results in unpredictability.

You have to be as strategic as possible and also very resilient and tough. Males dominate marketing and supply and many assume that as a young female, you are naive and vulnerable.

I once harvested a lot of cassava, and cassava must be sold or processed the very day it’s harvested or it changes colour and customers shun it. I went to the market once I was done the harvesting. Knowing it was my first time, buyers undermined me and started changing the agreed prices.

Refusing to bow down, I took a chance and went to offload at a new market. My risk paid off as I was able to sell all the cassavas. Although, since I stayed much later, I had to hire security as thieving gangs often disrupt women-led businesses. This is price men don’t have to pay.

My biggest mistake was doing too much too soon. I tried to build Rome in a day and lost money and time Click To Tweet


How can the business environment be improved for young entrepreneurs?

For the business environment to improve, we need clear and functioning value chains and infrastructure.  I also believe in mentorship and so having agribusiness incubators and accelerators is key.

These two accompanied by financing options would really do wonders for the environment.

Has collaborating worked for you? And why do you think it’s important for women?

I love collaborating because synergies created through collaboration can be very transformative. But just like any worthwhile relationship, it requires a good amount of work to find good collaborative partners, not just because we are in the same field, or because we are friends.

Collaboration should be done objectively and soberly. Otherwise, most end up in turmoil and discord.


Are they any women that have helped you in your journey?

I look up to many women in my life. My mother, for example, has provided me with the drive, determination and support system to be able to pursue my dreams. Another woman who supported me is Ngaba Chatata.

As a fellow farmer, Ngaba has advised me on horticultural production. It was after I visited her farm that I realized she was living the life I wanted. This challenged me to go an start my own business.

Overall, the women in my life have motivated me and provided me with a support system that has kept me going. They keep reminding me that with diligence and focus I will be successful.

What mistakes did you make in business and how can other women avoid that?

I made and still make lots of mistakes. They make me grow and redirect me. So first, realise that mistakes can be lessons.

My biggest mistake was doing too much too soon. I tried to build Rome in a day and lost money and time. So learning to be patient and work one step at a time is one great lesson to learn.

Secondly, it is important to draw up a plan, do research and map your journey. Although plans change, having one will grant you focus and purpose. With this, you will also be able to track progress.

Lastly, stay in your lane. Do not compare yourself to others. Journeys differ and comparison has a way of killing off your motivation and making you ungrateful.

Work on your hustle and keep your eyes ahead. - Mavis-Zaina Kanjadza Click To Tweet


Any final words to our Motherland moguls?

Find out what you want to do and do it. Know your purpose and pursue it militantly. You can do anything but only with clarity of purpose and hard work.

Peggy Moele proves that Aquaponics is an innovative way to breed organic food for African communities

56-year-old Peggy Moele is one of the few women in South Africa practicing aquaponics and aquaculture-agriculture in her 10 hector veg and fisheries farm.

The new system of aquaponics and aquaculture has helped Peggy win awards and getting much recognition and a helping hand from the Department of Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries in her country, South Africa.

She was one of the few women of a group of farmers funded to go on an excursion tour and workshop in chines province to learn about the modern solutions to organic farming and fisheries in early 2017.  

Khethiwe Mndawe interviewed Peggy Moela after receiving her award as woman farmer of the year in her municipality and nomination nationally at the Woman in agriculture awards 2017.

Peggy was born and raised in rural Bushbuckridge, growing up with values that depend on the land farming to create sustainable solutions for the community to never go hungry.

As a young woman growing up in the nomadic homelands, the poverty of the families around her always touch her to work towards how she can bring solutions for other families and greater way of making a living. 

“I started out running a catering business, unable to find work in my area yet seeing the poverty and lots of lands always draw me to agriculture I came from a poor background and I’ve always see the  challenges and need of the people in my community and it has always been a wish of mine to create employment” said Peggy

Running Jubilee farms with her son they had decided that they wanted to go into fisheries and explored those possibilities after a visit for an official from the department of agriculture, in her province who expanded their knowledge and supported then in kick-starting building their first pond.

After having built over 10 ponds and growing they started with 360 Tapia fish from Mozambique practice and  Aqua phonic and aquaculture fish farming and organic veg farming and their journey in China studying the different options toward organic farming and fisheries.

Mrs. Peggy Moele got her first recognition  after winning as the female entrepreneur farmer of the year 2016, she was selected as the top female in agriculture in Bushbuckridge again in 2017 and awarded at the Provincial agriculture female awards by the minister of Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries 2017 and nominated in the nationals for her unique and developing farming business in her 10 hector farm.

A system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

With pigs and cows that she has bread over the years, she had discovered with her son the proactive of aquaculture, using excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the same pond water, increasing toxicity.

“With the aquaponics system, we use the water from an aquaculture system which we feed to a hydroponic system. The by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system”.

“We have been doing most of the work ourselves in putting these systems together and they have produced many results and  accelerate the  vision or organic farms and fisheries for the community and working toward commercial  supply.” Said, her son, Boka Moele, Manager of the Jubilee farm

“Seeing that I came from elders who always ventured into farming, feeding the communities and sustaining themselves through farming. It was easy for me to decide to go into farming. I took all my profits and saving from my catering business, and in 2011 I approached the chiefs in my village area and bought about 10 hectares of land” said Peggy Moele

They started to use 6 hectors of the land and cleared, to begin seasonal crop farming. Things were very difficult in the beginning, I couldn’t afford any workers, those that worked for me, I would offer them and their families groceries and vegetable to sustain them as we were struggling and still growing.  

“After the department had heard about my farm in Bushbuckridge, they came to view our farm our progress and to hear what challenges we were facing.  The official then introduced us to aquaculture and fisheries, he showed us how to build our first pond and ever since we have built much more on our own to cater for our fisheries business. We have since been breading the Mozambique Tilapia fish. Initially, we started with 360 fishes in 2013 and we are amazed at how much the fishes continue to grow and multiply. We have since been having a good relationship with the DPT of agriculture and they have been very good to us in assisting us and I am so grateful” said Mrs. Peggy Moele

Today we have close to 20 ponds in counting, a good irrigation system and they have been adding their keep of cows and pigs. The farm sustains itself with the season veg crops they farm and they have opened not to various student and agriculture researcher to use and practice form.

“We are so proud of her and we believe she is the best representative of women youth farmers. We hope form today onwards mayflies will follow her. It is inspiring to see our women in mud and surrounded by flies other that plastic hair and makeup  because we admire  that when they touch the land they subdue and multiply its uses to feed the nation and with this they can lead the men working with the land and producing form it to a point of  economic contribution” said Minister of Agriculture and rural development and affairs in the Mpumalanga province, Mr. Vusi Shongwe

They have hired a few young people and families in her surrounding communities, who work and contribute to the development and economic transformation of sustainable farm in the Mpumalanga province that is going commercial and exploring n bigger markets. They also produce mangoes, tomatoes, banana and popos, spinach.

“She is one of the women who represent the backbone of development of rural and national economies. Their exact contribution in terms of magnitude and nature remain difficult to assess due to the variations in different regions. Evidence shows that through contributions like her in her area and marginal participation in agriculture and fisheries, they make significant contributions to food security and economic development of countries all over the world.” said the minister of agriculture Mr. Senzeni Zokwana

“There is a need to invest in female farmers and we as three South African government have son what great breakthrough and community employment come through if we empower these women like Peggy,” he continued.

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Salma Abdulai: Failure is part of succeeding

Others will believe in you, if you believe in yourself Click To Tweet

Mrs. Salma Abdulai is the Chief Executive Officer of Unique Quality Product Enterprise. With a background in Agriculture Science from her senior high school level, she continued her education at the University for Development Studies where she studied Agriculture Technology and majored in Agricultural Economics and Extension. In addition to that, she has a postgraduate degree in MPhil Agricultural Economics from the same University.

Salma Abdulai has 9 years of experience working on different projects with international non-profit organizations.  She has extensive experience in the agriculture sector, particularly working with small scale rural farmers and women groups.  The company is a reflection of her experience and passion for agriculture and social consciousness. Mrs. Abdulai is currently responsible for the overall management of the company and its day-to-day operations.

“High influx of imported food products in the country is making local goods less competitive”

Salma Abdulai

You started your company in 2013; can you tell us what the first 6 months was like?

The first 6 months were vague, even though the results to achieve were clear, the process was not very clear to me. It was all about planning on how to take off, where to get the necessary materials,  how many women farmers should we support, what other equipment  do we require? It felt like there were a lot of things to be done by one person.


What support system and tools have helped you in the course of running your enterprise?

We constituted an advisory board, which had diverse experiences in various fields to advise us on key decisions the enterprise took. This actually reduced the risk we faced against some of the actions we made.  It also helped the business stay focused and concentrated on very important things in the midst of the limited resources.

Attending networking events has brought the enterprise a lot of referrals in terms of market and financing. We weren’t able to attend all, but we made it a point to attend as many as possible.

Social Media has become the most popular marketing and information tool; we use social media for marketing and sharing a lot of information on our product.

I also got a lot of support from family in terms of resources and advice.


What are some of the challenges facing the agricultural sector?

High influx of imported food products in the country is making local goods less competitive.

Inadequate funding because of the risk associated with this sector, adding the adverse effect of the impact of climate change in this sector is making it more difficult to get funding.

Lack of implementation of government policies on agriculture.


What do you think the government can do to improve the agricultural sector in Ghana?

Make good policies to favour small business in the agribusiness sector, by developing and promoting policies that directly affect the growth of the sector. This can include cutting down on importation of food products, increase capacity of farmers to produce more and support businesses to absorb increased food surplus by adding value.

Enhance institutions that directly deal with farmers with the necessary resources to do so. Create a favorable environment for small businesses to thrive.  Also the government should strive to reduce bureaucracy in our public institutions.


Failure is part of succeeding Click To Tweet


Share with us the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt about yourself and others from your journey in life thus far?

I have learnt to believe in myself. When I believe that I can do something, I end up doing it, even if I face a lot of challenges.  Others believe in you if you believe in yourself. Failure is part of succeeding. It is not always the decision you have made that you will always succeed at,  but believe me, if you fail, you become stronger and wiser.

I have learnt to believe in myself Click To Tweet


What three skills have helped you overtime in business?

Time management, Routine planning of daily activities, patience.


What’s the most courageous thing you have done?

The most courageous thing I have done is reviving a cereal that went extinct in my area and getting women to produce it even when they did not have access to land.


If you were to host few friends for lunch, what meal would you make with Fonio?

I will prepare Fonio chicken salad for lunch and Fonio pudding for dessert.


Are you in the agricultural business? How has your experience been thus far?

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Nkwah Azinwi Ngum: Our food choices are very important for a healthier life

Nkwah Azinwi Ngum has an MSc in Rural Economics and Agri-Food from the University of Yaoundé II Soa, Cameroon. She is a Cameroon Human Rights Fellow and a Cameroon Women’s Scholarship fellow. She was trained by the Israel’s Agency for International Development Corporation – MASHAV- under a course ‘Agribusiness, a tool for the empowerment of rural women’ in Israel.

Currently she serves as the Coordinator of the Cameroon Women’s Scholarship Alumni Association. She is also one of the World Council of Churches youth ambassadors in Africa; and has completed an Eco-school course on Water, Food and Climate Justice in Malawi. 

 She recently founded an organisation “Save The Future”, which aims to empower communities and young people to overcome development challenges. The organisations primary focus  is to equip young people with the necessary sustainable agriculture skills, as a means to curb  poverty and food insecurity.


People should be able to economically afford the food necessary to maintain their well-being Click To Tweet

Nkwah Azinwi Ngum


Nkwah, to what extent is food security guaranteed, if one is growing their own crops?

We need to know the basic definition of food security before we can clearly understand this question.

Food security in its most basic definition means: ensuring that everyone can access the amount of healthy, nutritious foods they need to live. However it also indicates that people should be able to economically afford the food necessary to maintain their well-being.

Growing your own food is one way you can make sure your family always has an ample supply of fruits and vegetables and other food crops. We should note that growing your own food does not necessarily mean you are food secure. But, it reduces the resources you would spend on say, vegetables, and these resources could be channeled to other food crops that cannot be grown in the garden, hence contributing to food security.


You have been raising awareness of food security on social media, how has this been received by your target audience?

Using social media to raise awareness on the dangers of food insecurity and how we can cope or avoid the situation has been a little challenging. People still do not see this a challenge, but it is a situation whose consequences have triple effects – individual, family and economy.

Notwithstanding challenges, from the reactions I have received, attitudes are changing; many people are beginning to gain interest in the subject and are trying to curb the situation by growing their own food.

I will also like to note that, aside from social media, I am educating children in orphanages and schools on sustainable food. For the past four months, I, together with my friend, Ndeby Jarreth Therese (Co-Founder of Save The Future),  have been able to reach about 200, 9-17 year old young people.

From time to time, we call back to check the progress they are making in maintaining the gardens and also whether their feeding habits are changing. We are also hoping to increase the beneficiaries of this project to 2000 by the end of this year.


Children who grow their own food may have increased preference for vegetables. Click To Tweet


Nkwah Azinwi Ngum


What’s your advice on how we can actually convince our kids to have healthy eating habits?

Kids are more open to learning new cultures and attitudes than adults. One trick is introducing these veggies in their diet, whether frozen or dried, and  being diverse in the colors (use different colors so that they can find the food attractive).

Alternatively, we can get kids to eat healthily by letting them assist in growing the food they eat. Create a home garden (no matter the size) and let your kids help out in the garden. Let them grow their favorite vegetables. During which time, you can teach them the benefits of veggies and fruits. Research has shown that children who grow their own food may have increased preference for vegetables.

Aside from home, pre-schools and primary schools can also contribute in grooming kids in healthy nutrition by using school gardens. Kids interact and learn from their peers. Therefore, school is one of the main social contexts where agricultural and food related practices, attitudes and other skills can be developed and shaped.

What are some of the healthiest foods that you recommend us to take daily?

Our food choices are very important for a healthy life. For a balanced diet we need to eat fruits and vegetables, protein, grain products and dairy foods. However, we need to know which food is vital on a daily basis and which are not.

I would recommend fruits and veggies as the healthiest food for our daily consumption. We have to encourage and inculcate the habit of eating fruits and vegetables daily. One way of doing this is by growing our own veggies like okra, lettuce, amaranth, cucumber etc.


You are also encouraging entrepreneurial skills so that people can produce more and sell excess. When one has taken farming to the business level is there anything they have to do differently?

Many people see farming as a way of life, but today the concept is changing, especially among young people.

If we want to consider our farming as a business; we need to treat it like another business venture. We need to carry out feasibility studies on the different stakeholders already involved in this line of business and create a business plan.

However, for the young people I am working with, the basic idea is to introduce them into the world of entrepreneurship and the methods of how they can develop interest in agriculture.


Using fertilizers is not a bad idea, but the problem is how we use them; quantity and quality - Nkwah Azinwi Ngum Click To Tweet


What do you think about using fertilizers and other chemicals on our crops?  Does that have any effects on our systems?

Using fertilizers is not a bad idea, but the problem is how we use them; quantity and quality. Most fertilizers contain the same basic materials: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and sometimes other nutrients, like zinc, needed for healthy plant growth.

Fertilisers that are designed to kill or prevent weeds are most damaging to our health, as they are known to be the leading cause of cancer. In addition to that, fertilisers can cause water and soil pollution which can lead to other diseases.

We therefore need to use fertilisers mindfully, in order to mitigate the negative effects. It is for these reasons that I strongly advise the use of organic fertilizers. I encourage people to make their own organic fertilizer by simply recycling their organic waste at home. This does not only increase our crop yields but also ensures healthier veggies and saves money.

 Have you ever created your own vegetable garden for business purposes?

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