Saturday, 6 February 2021

RAGS TO RICHES FOR RETRENCHED WORKER


IT was a painful journey for Mr Brian Mawoyo when one of the country’s leading telecommunications companies arbitrarily terminated his contract of employment as a senior manager on three months’ notice in 2015.

This followed the infamous July 2015 Zuva Petroleum judgment on common law contracts of employment.

On the day he lost his job of 10 years, Mr Mawoyo failed to get up from his bed. He was so traumatised as he struggled to come to terms with the harsh reality. Due to retrenchment, the debt ridden Mr Mawoyo had to make several adjustments in his lifestyle, some of which included pulling out his children from private schools and moving out of their plush home.

His world had completely turned upside down overnight. However, in a script that reads like the popular Cinderella folk tale, Mr Mawoyo’s forsaken circumstances suddenly changed to a remarkable tale of success.

Thanks to a five-minute phone call that Mr Mawoyo made to a friend who worked for a local seed company. Through that phone call, he managed to secure seeds on credit, marking the dawn of a new era.

That phone call completely transformed his life and changed the way he now perceives life. Today, Mr Mawoyo co-owns the country’s largest producer of seedlings, Spinyard Seedlings. The company is also the sole distributor of Hazera seeds in Zimbabwe.

Hazera is an Israel based renowned global seed company that breeds, develops, produces and markets varieties and seeds in a wide range of vegetable crops around the world.

“I started this company when I lost my job during the infamous job meltdown in 2015 when most people lost their jobs on three months’ notice. I used to work for one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies in Zimbabwe as a senior manager for close to 10 years.” said Mr Mawoyo.

“I woke up one day and there was no job and it was difficult time for me and my family because we had debt and mortgages. I had to pull out my kids from the good schools that they were going to, moved out of our house and rented elsewhere.”

Mr Mawoyo’s strong passion and interest in farming resurged when he lost his job and today, he has no regrets despite the traumatic experience that he went through in 2015.

He said he ventured into seedlings production upon realising that the larger chunk of operating costs went into procurement of saplings.

“I always had a passion for farming and when I started the horticulture project and selling the produce to shops such as OK and Pick n Pay supermarkets I then discovered that my biggest cost was in buying seedlings and I then decided to make my own seedlings,” he said.

“I partnered with a longtime friend Ronald Marikano and he inspired me in so many ways and I remember even when I had just been retrenched, he gave me hope, everything happens for a reason.”

Mr Mawoyo said when they started producing seedlings for their horticulture project, other farmers started developing an interest in their seedlings and started buying from them. Because of huge demand, we then stopped field production and moved into seedlings production full time.

 

We started with a capacity of producing 365 000 seedlings per month, which was a small greenhouse and today we are now producing 20 million seedlings per month and we are the biggest producers in the country,” he said.

Spinyard Seedlings has two sites in Mabelreign and Umwinsidale in Harare and they recently partnered with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Woodville on the outskirts of Bulawayo where they are producing at least 1,6 million horticulture seedlings per month targeting farmers in the Matabeleland region.

Mr Mawoyo said under the Spinyard/ADRA joint project, they have employed 93 people, most of whom are widows. The company also pays schools fees to orphans.

“The Woodville seedlings production project is the latest addition in our group. We have always wanted to empower people because for me losing a job was quite traumatic. We deliberately took a position to economically empower widows and orphans. We also pay school fees for our employees’ children and other orphans out there,” he said.

“The idea of having the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), an NGO arm of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church dovetails with our vision of empowering people locally. From their end, ADRA seeks to alleviate hunger and poverty.”

Mr Mawoyo said the world has changed as most NGOs, which largely relied on receiving offshore funding, are now required to be innovative. Mr Mawoyo, who is a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) economics graduate, said although he is not a trained farmer, he relied heavily on reading and experimenting a lot of things about agriculture. He said Spinyard Seedlings also trains its clients on how to farm as well as improving in terms of self-sustainability.

“We approached ADRA and they had this property and we didn’t have a site in this region and we then offered to partner them because we wanted to empower people. Our dream is not to just sell seedlings, we also train farmers on horticulture because many people don’t know how to do proper horticulture,” he said. “Our main objective in this partnership is to alleviate poverty, which is our core business and that marries with what we seek to do as Spinyard. Precisely, that is why we are here in Bulawayo.”

The ADRA/Spinyard project which has been running for six months and also employs two agronomists, is already making waves in Matabeleland. The initial capital for the project in Bulawayo is US$60 000.

“We don’t just sell seedlings, we visit our farmers, employ full time agronomists and our dream is to fund this project and make sure that our people in Zimbabwe know how to farm and produce quality products, make money as well as increasing the country’s GDP,” said Mr Mawoyo. “We are so proud that in such a short space of time I have moved from unemployment to an employer and to distributing world renowned seed houses. We also import and distribute construction material for greenhouses from Israel.”

Mr Mawoyo said they have also ventured into a poultry project, which started with 50 roadrunners and today they have over 5 000 birds. “Roadrunners are indigenous chickens, which offer a healthier organic option. Unlike broilers, roadrunners are cheaper to rear as they thrive on natural foods such as grain and insects. We specialise in breeding the Black Australorps and Koekkoek and we recently introduced Light Sussex, Road Ireland and these roadrunners are over 5 000 in 18 months,” he said.

“We are excited to be in the southern region and we invite anyone who would love to be involved in horticulture so that we can visit them at their farms. Our agronomists are ready to help and we will provide you with quality seedlings for horticulture produce and selected tree seedlings.”

Mr Mawoyo said Matabeleland region has a potential to be a serious export hub for the country if its resources are harnessed. Chronicle

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