On the 14th of December 2020, Africa University celebrated the amazing staff of the institutions’ Dream Farm Trust, recognizing individual and collective excellence and service to the institution, its community and the region of Manicaland at the annual Farm Worker of the Year Awards.
Categorized as essential services, the university farm adapted its business model at the onset of the COVID- 19 Pandemic offering door to door deliveries to ensure that families in the community retained access to fresh and nutritious food and to also keep supermarkets in the City of Mutare well stocked with farm fresh produce. Farm activities did not cease for a single day and operations continued full throttle despite national lockdown restrictions.
2020 has been a challenging year in which the COVID-19 Pandemic presented itself as a threat to many industries but also offered opportunities for new ways of doing business, for innovation and for adaptation to the VUCA environment that pushed so many economic sectors to the brink. Viewed by many as an accelerator, COVID- 19 has also urged the adoption of technology across the world , especially at Africa University , from virtual meetings, to online learning , to webinars which have become the norm. The Africa University Dream Farm was no different and has grown from the Pandemic stronger and more determined.
Vice Chancellor Professor Munashe Furusa said at the awards ceremony held on the Mutare Main Campus,
“As we go forward, agriculture shall drive our economy. We are grateful for the work our employees are doing. It gives me great pleasure to share this day with you. A day where we honor men and women who are passionate and show deep commitment to their work. Mrs. Marsha Dorgan sponsors so many students at Africa University and she is also a key pillar and founding supporter of the Dream Dairy which is a subsidiary of the Dream Farm Trust. We are immensely grateful for this undying support. We are also very grateful to Professor Abercrombie, Dr. Hope Abercrombie and the Kies Family that has carried the burden of raising resources and friends for this farm and university. We are truly blessed to have you. Friends of the farm continue to donate resources to the housing of staff and today we shall also commission the fourth such house built for this purpose. In March, the future of the farm looked bleak due to the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic. While the University teaching arm went virtual, our farm adapted and did the same by embracing E- Commerce and creating an online store. These times call for new ways of thinking and doing things, new innovations, new methods and new techniques. The Dream Farm products are currently being rebranded and are going online. In fact ,ours may be the only farm in the Manicaland region that is now selling its products online.”
Prof Furusa went on to highlight the impeccable production record of the farm and the many exciting projects that are in the pipeline. The VC also thanked major partners and sponsors who have added to the successes realized throughout the year,
“I thank our partners who continue to stand with us in these difficult and uncertain times with special thanks to SeedCo who have supported us with Maize and Soybean seeds, Agriculture Research Trust, Bayer Chemicals, Command Agriculture for Wheat , Maize and Soybeans and Charter Seeds for vegetable seeds. Looking forward to 2021 and beyond, the farm plans to set up Maize and Wheat milling plants and to commercialize some of its products in line with the university’s thrust for innovation and industrialization. The College of Agriculture Health and Natural Sciences has just received approval of the food processing program meaning we will be working closely with farmers in the region to begin processing foods. We have set ourselves the task of becoming a world-class university and evidence of this is seen in the quality of our staff and students.”
Dean of the College of Health , Agriculture and Natural Sciences Professor Sungano Mharakurwa echoed the message for continuous improvement and innovation put forth by the VC saying,
” Farm workers are our unsung heroes. Our farm is reaching self- sufficiency in providing food to the university and also advancing in our Hydroponics endeavors. Farm work is not for the feint of heart, nor for the lazy. It takes hard work, honesty and determination. Our students in the Agriculture programs always fondly recall their practical lessons at our farm as it serves as preparation for the tillers and managers of our land, our heritage, that they shall become. We humbly appreciate our farm workers who do so much.”
Farm Manager Mr. Trevor Mupofu praised the amazing team that supports the vision of the farm and helps to bring it to fruition .
“I work together with a committed group of men and women who are at work at 5am and leave work into the next day departing for home at 12am. The farm and our efforts are complemented by very experienced personnel. I have learnt so much from my work mates and where we are now is a testimony to how far we have come. To keep our staff motivated we have created a performance mechanism in collaboration with Ms. Washaya of the i5Hub, where we recognize the farmer of the month. This culminates in the farm worker of the year awards which we have today. Mrs. Marsha Dorgan has been instrumental in the establishment of the AU Dream Dairy and she is a major sponsor of this event and the university. Our awards are in the following categories, Outstanding Female Worker of the Year, Farm Worker of the Year, Dairy Worker of the Year and Farm Supervisor of the Year. Our guiding principle is that with God, all things are possible.”
The farm’s activities are wide ranging with the university showing impeccably well in the industry in the areas of poultry, dairy and wheat farming. The institutions’ Broiler section has a throughput of 2000 birds per fortnight while the layers section has a capacity of 6000 birds with a production rate of 150 crates of eggs per day on average. The Dream Dairy, known for producing one of the best yogurt products on the market, is big on value addition. The Sheep and Goats section where the Dorper Sheep Project has already begun to make waves is a thriving concern. Bee Keeping has also been added to the raft of enterprises that the farm is embarking on in 2021 . In addition to this, the reclamation of seven dams that were previously used for flooding storage for flood irrigation have been reclaimed and shall become fish ponds with a carrying capacity of 5400 Tilapia Bream.
On the beef production end, a pilot project has been conducted to evaluate the capacity for beef pen fattening where the prospects look positive for the upscaling of the butchery arm of the farm. The Piggery that currently holds 50 Pig sowers has already seen the farm being recognized as the best pig breeder in Manicaland and the second in the nation.
Crops grown at the farm include Soybeans, Potatoes, Cabbages, Tomatoes and Winter Wheat with a 40 Hectare yield being recorded by the farm for the first time in its history for the year 2020.
This edition of the annual Farm Worker of the Year Awards also served as an occasion for the university to bid farewell to Mr. Larry Kies who is retiring after serving as a lecturer and the Farm Technical Advisor since joining the university in 2002 in the College of Health, Agriculture and Natural Sciences. Known to many as a friend, Mr. Kies and his wife Jane (who taught in the Intensive English Programme for international students in the College of Social Sciences, Theology, Humanities and Education) , have consistently showed their passion and love for the mission of the university answering the call to serve. Larry and Jane have been instrumental in fundraising activities for the farm that has resulted in the upgrade and modernization of critical farm equipment and machinery over the years.
In his parting remarks, Mr. Kies said on behalf of his wife and their family,
“Mazvita! (Thank you). When we meet people , whether we work together or not, we should always look for that which we have in common. What do we share together? That is the root of success. Mr. Mpofu, I am grateful that we found common ground in our passion for hard work and farming together. The same applies to the entire university for our common ground and interest in seeing Africa University grow and develop. They say you can take the boy out of Africa but you cannot take Africa out of the boy. I will continue to be involved in teaching and with Africa University. May we always find things that we can share together as we move forward.”
A farm house was also commissioned by VC Professor Munashe Furusa that shall provide accommodation to Mr. Derera, the university farm driver and his family . In line with the thrust to make Africa University the best place to serve, accommodation of farm staff remains a critical priority area due to the odd hours that the nature of work calls for with close proximity to the university farm greatly easing the lives of farm employees. The three bedroomed home has been generously built with funds donated by the First United Methodist Church in Wichita , Kansas.