By Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle reporter
MR Martin Nyoni and Mrs Fattela Nleya manage a 3.5 hectare site in Village Six, Heaney Junction areas along the Bulawayo-Harare highway.
The field has various farm products such as rabbits, chickens, fish, tomatoes, cabbage, green peppers, lettuce and beets.
Their plan is towards self-sufficiency, as fresh produce subsidizes livestock and vice versa. In addition to pellets for feeding, rabbits also rely on cabbage and lettuce leaves that are produced in excess from plants.
What’s also interesting about their concept, when the harvest is ripe, is that the couple’s field has fresh farm produce that supplies their two restaurants and a retail store located in town. They adhere to the principles of value addition because their farm produce has a ready market that can consume it.
About 9,000 fish are fed fish feed and subsidized by manure produced by about 300 chickens and rabbits.
When the fish are ripe, they are sold to various shops in the city.
The property has five fish ponds, one 20 metres, 30 meters and 1.5 meters deep, as Mr Nyoni said it was a relatively new project.
Mr Nyoni, a former nurse, said he teamed up with his partner Ms Nleya three years ago, bought a plot of land and planted cabbage as a first project.
“We started the project about three and a half years ago. What inspires us is seeing other farmers achieve different things. This land was barren, and after cultivating the land, we planted 7,000 cabbages and were able to harvest the crop. Unfortunately, we planted at the wrong time and the cabbages flooded the market and we sold them at US$1 per four instead of US$1,” said Mr Nyoni.
He said the main problem of the project is water.
Although they have a well, they need a new and more powerful pump.
“In the second season, we started working on the water system, because water is problematic here. We dug wells and bought Jojo tanks that hold 20,000 liters of water to irrigate various crops,” said Mr Nyoni.
He said that the reason why the area has different crops and products is because they are not tied to one market.
“We have tried to diversify and we have different products where we supply the market. The good thing is that we don’t have a middleman. So we take all our products to the restaurant. Selling produce with a middleman is expensive, for example, it costs $1 per head to buy lettuce from the market. If you produce your own product, it is half that,” said Mr Nyoni.
He said they own two restaurants downtown and supply them with fresh produce.
“Thus, the products used in the menus of our restaurant are fresh farm products. With the rabbit project, we currently have 11 heads, but we aim to reach 500 to 1,000 by the end of the year and the meat will be added to the restaurant menu,” said Mr Nyoni.
Ms Nleya, who worked at Innscor for 12 years, said she was in the fast-food business and then went into the beauty industry, but farming was more profitable than the two. “We were mostly nice people until we realized the money was on the farming side. First we started Spa Center Salon downtown, then we opened a restaurant called KaMandazi, then Vuma Groceries and Take Away, and then recently we opened Grand Arcade. We provide them with fresh products here,” said Mrs. Nleya.
He said he started selling samosas more than 15 years ago while working in a fast-food business. “As women, nothing is impossible and nothing is beyond us. We should not always look at men as our providers, we should be able to use our God given hands to make money or start up projects to make money as well,” said Ms Nleya.
“I would wake up at 3am and cook samosas and my daughter would take them to her school, Masiyephambili Primary School.
At that time, the shop took 20 of my samosas. I realized that I started making 100, 200 samosas from 20, until I started supplying shops around the city.”
A forward-looking couple wants to expand their farming business.