My journey started towards the end of 2016 after my mother acquired a piece of land for farming in the Mashonaland West province of Chinhoyi. I always had a passing interest in agriculture and let’s face it, as Zimbabweans, we have had about 20 years of government propaganda telling us about the value of land and how agriculture will turn the fortunes of the country around. This constant barrage of information is what got me interested in farming and I told myself that one day I would retire on a farm. I also saw the success of a few of my peers who had turned into full-time farmers after inheriting land from their parents or being asked to help out at the farm.
My mother asked me to help her get the farm productive. I was 33 at the time, had no farming experience and I had no collateral to borrow against so there was no way a bank was going to lend me money in order to make the land productive.
After analyzing the situation I realized that there were thousands of Zimbabwean farmers in the same boat. Young, old, men or women. According to a Fintrack survey published in 2011, Zimbabwe has a USD223m agricultural funding shortfall. I’m sure by now this figure has gone up. Traditional financial institutions are not addressing the funding needs of farmers.
At around about the same time, I was looking for ways of investing small amounts of money. $50 here, $100 there and so forth. Banks in Zim do give interest and the barriers to entry when you want to invest in the money market are quite high. The securities and equities markets are complex and not welcoming to everyday people.
It suddenly dawned on me that I could get people to invest in crops and livestock by getting people to invest in crops and livestock and share the profits with the farmers when the produce goes to market. This is how YouFarm was born.
YouFarm provides farmers with access to collateral-free finance by getting people to invest in crops and livestock and share the profits with the farmers when the produce goes to market. It allows people who do not have access to land an opportunity to earn money and become a part of the agricultural value chain. Our mission is to change the way that agricultural finance is done in Africa.
It hasn’t been an easy journey as we had to deal with many challenges including regulators and the Zimbabwean economy. But because we believe in what we are doing we have not given up and we recently started harvesting our first crops. We managed to fund a 23 year old farmer who had no collateral and take him all the way to harvest in a space of 4 months. The investors can expect a return of between 120-140%! Not bad if I say so myself!
We are now looking to spread the gospel of YouFarm around Southern Africa and we are now piloting YouFarm in South Africa. We have received overwhelming support in SA. We also have pilot projects planned for Tanzania, Botswana, Mozambique, and Namibia. Our belief that there is no good excuse for not funding farmers is what drives my team and I.
We have failed many times, but we get up and try again. Fail fast. Fail forward. Experiment. Find what works and what doesn’t. Find your mission, empower others and don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one has all the answers!
Founder & CEO of YouFarm