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Zambian dynamo rounds up 60,000 farmers into agribusiness

By DERRICK SILIMINA

Ruth Sibanda is a Zambian who heads the Remnant Farmer, a network of over 60,000 farmers countrywide and abroad including USA and Canada who attend virtual training.

“I came up with the Remnant Farmer to save farmers that are doing it as a way of living so that they do it as a business. I train Remnant Farmers every day on the cycle of crop production. So we have training in crops, in livestock and in aquaculture to change farmers’ mindsets and connect them to a defined market,” she says.

She notes that farmers ought to be aware that a hectare of garlic for instance is equal to 14 tonnes worth of production which can give a farmer K1.2 million cash when one is looking at the venture as a business.  

To demonstrate her worth as a real Remnant Farmer, Sibanda owns three irrigated farms in Lusaka under the umbrella of Remnant Limited Company where she produces garlic, chilli, maize and red onion with each crop yielding not less than 50 tonnes.

“Most of the time, I must have a defined market before I go into production and so far so good. As of now the market is available but unfortunately, other small-scale farmers are unable to meet the local demand,” says Sibanda, 40, a teacher in the Natural Science Department of Lilayi Secondary School of Lusaka since 2006.

OVERWHELMING

In 2020, she opened up an outgrower scheme after an overwhelming response from Remnant Farmers who are grouped into 10 cooperatives that are spread in each province countrywide. 

In her quest to transform the lives of fellow farmers, especially women in hunger-plagued Zambia, Sibanda is an inspirational force drawing other small-scale farmers to start taking farming as a business. 

“I was raised in the village both from childhood and in life itself, believing that we have to pluck money from the soil. Hence my brain wiring system is that money is plucked from the soil by the process of farming,” Sibanda told Solwezi Today.

As a typical agripreneur, Sibanda, a single mother of three, realised that dependence on a Government pay cheque could neither meet her family’s needs nor lift her out of poverty. 

In 2016, she started from scratch in a backyard garden and before she knew it, she became a supplier of vegetables to some chain stores around Lusaka city. Her humble beginnings inspired her to acquire her first farmland in the Chongwe area.

EXPLOITING

“When I look at how those who are farming as a way of living are being exploited by agents, I feel sad! They are being taken for granted because after production they do not calculate anything. They will just plan to sell whatever they harvest to buyers. Mostly, these agents determine their own prices and farmers allow it since they’re doing it as a way of living and not as a business,” said Sibanda

She believes that in Zambia, many small-scale farmers are in agriculture as a way of life, thereby becoming vulnerable to briefcase farmers who rip them off their hard-earned money. For this reason, she came up with an initiative to make agriculture attractive, especially among women and the youth in the country.

A check at Soweto market reveals that briefcase farmers are buying garlic from farmers at K15 per kg and offloading the garlic at K95 per kg.

Monica Chota, a farmer from Kapiri Mposhi in the Central province is a keen follower and member of the Remnant Farmers. “This group is very resourceful, I’m learning new things every day. How I wish ZNBC TV could allocate this team even 30 minutes of air space every week to educate the masses. The information here is a game changer for Mother Zambia and a permanent solution to food security. “Our vision is that by 2030, Remnant farmers will be the top 10 richest farmers in Africa and that will come to life.”

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