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Miriam Mutizwa Talks about Participation of Women in Agriculture, Economic Empowerment and Other Opportunities – Connections2Communities (C2C) Conversations

Brian Kazungu

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Zimbabwean born, United Kingdom based business woman Miriam Mutizwa has credited the Woman In Agriculture (WIA) initiative as a platform which provides an inclusive ecosystem which can help to close the global gender gap in the agro-industry value chain.

She said that the main intention for WIA, an organization which was inspired by the Connections2Communities (C2C) Conversations done by the 1873 Network is to provoke, ignite and inspire the participation of women in agro value chain.

Mutizwa who is passionate about collaboration towards projects success believes that woman are the face of agriculture in all the developing countries and thus their participation in this industry helps towards the delivery of sustainable harvests and a better future which is women driven.

During a Connections2Communities (C2C) Conversations shared below, Miriam addressed a number of issues especially to do with the participation of women in agriculture, economic empowerment and various other opportunities.

C2C: Miriam, welcome to the Connections2Communities (C2C) Conversations. Would you briefly tell us about yourself and the Women In Agriculture (WIA) initiative?

Miriam Mutizwa: I was born and bred in Zimbabwe up to teenage hood and then migrated to the United States of America (USA) after which, I then later on settled in England. 

I have worked in various sectors including Digital Technology, Micro Banking, Horticulture, Procurement and Construction.

I am a director of two organizations that are in the health and agro sectors in the United Kingdom (UK). More-so, I am into Management Consultancy and I am a Trustee for one of the leading Land Trusts in England where I serve as Board Advisor on capital raising for affordable housing.

I hold a Grade 7 qualification which gives me a competitive edge on using basic numeracy, literacy and good sense of direction. 

As for Woman In Agriculture (WIA), it was founded almost 2years ago with the intention to provoke, ignite and inspire participation of women in agro-value chain. It was born out of C2C, which is an initiative of The1873 Network. 

I believe that via WIA, which was birthed from meeting of minds, an inclusive ecosystem will help close the global gender gap in agro industry value chain that will see delivery of better sustainable harvests and a better future led my women.

C2C: Thank you very much for your detailed response. Now, we can talk about gender. Do you believe that women are a distinct and homogenous human identity? If so, why?

Miriam Mutizwa: Relatively, yes, mainly in reproduction science and physiological make up! Outside of this, the answer is no since all human beings are created equal. Even physiologically the similarities outweigh the differences. 

When it comes to satisfying the basic human need, we are the same. We all feel hunger, pain and arguably joy. More-so, we all have a need for shelter and clothing etc.

C2C: What do you think is the role of the media in building a shared understanding of the relationship between humans and the enterprise commonly referred to as the agricultural value chain? In this instance, I assume that you share the belief that literacy when shared holds the promise to bring people together?

Miriam Mutizwa: Without daily literacy nuggets, we might as well shut shop on everything. 

This is because, in general, people will come together organically even to do nothing and similarly others can come to solve identified problems.

The reason I personally participate in several initiatives is that if I did not learn it from growing up, it means I learnt it through the media of the day. 

For example, I met innumerable individuals through social media since 1997 on Samara chatroom then AfricaOnline, then NewZimbabwe even before Facebook and Twitter.

Each of these connections made through media helped to shape who I am today and the knowledge thus far gained is priceless. As such, I am a strong believer in information sharing through whatever means which is available and at whatever occasion.

My own personal growth was made possible by sharing information. What then differentiates us as individuals is what we do with the information that is shared. In recent months, through 1873, I have made acquaintances and gained business ideas from C2C. 

Each day I learn that I know nothing due to how dynamic life is. 

For example, agriculture is an interesting and dynamic field since what I knew 30 years ago and what I now know on the same subject are worlds apart yet related. 

As such, Media is therefore a great literacy and information sharing tool in this regard. We are all where we are because someone shared information and we followed the guidance it came with as we are doing today with Covid-19.

C2C: Now turning to the C2C initiative and the Banking On Africa’s Future (BOAF) idea, what can you share with others on the true promise of connecting, sharing ideas, and solving problems without compromising or undermining self-interest?

Miriam Mutizwa: For me the essence of being part of the future that I want, and authoring the future as I live presently is exciting. 

Yesterday an off spring said to me “what I did 5 minutes is now the past”. I asked where they heard it from and the reply was “a cartoon I watched last week”. What am I saying? All the cartoons in my life are literacy objects, either what not to do and what to do. 

Recently using the mindset of a community collaboration, 9 of us raised US50 000 to use in a collective initiative. Had I tried to do it alone, the US$50 000 would be a heavier burden or commitment than when it is shared among 9 people. 

C2C: At this point, let’s talk about opportunities that you have shared. Is there any more information that you may wish to elaborate on?

Miriam Mutizwa: Sure. The UK has a myriad of development aid funding grants. 

My idea is affordable housing in agro productive sectors through which WIA can be the bridge to opportunities and resources. The money is up for grabs for various sectors. 

As was our quest with ABSA and Afgri, it is important to work through government partnerships. If I were to do it as Miriam, it would not go far, but collectively as WIA, we are bound to get audience.

C2C: Finally, do you in the African skies see women who are shinning stars (actors) in the agricultural value chain other than you who you think should be showcased and celebrated as role models?

Miriam Mutizwa: There are less than a handful if at all. I can talk of Leeko Makoene who runs Made With Rural (MWR) which is a platform that develops, organizes and link emerging farmers with sustainable markets.

We also have Tomi Olatoye in South West Nigeria who has made amazing strides on agro literacy online programs and I consider her a Major General in knowledge sharing.

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Africa

Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge – Coronavirus, A Food Security Threat To Africa.

zwnews24 Editor

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Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge, the Pan African Parliament Ambassador for Food Security in Africa said that the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a serious food security threat to this continent where some countries are surviving on food aid from donors across the world.

She highlighted that the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic which has drastically affected stock markets and international trade has also unfortunately brought along some logistical challenges with it which in turn affect the movement of food aid to countries that need it the most.

The Food Ambassador attributed the logistical challenges to some lockdowns and travel bans that are happening in some seriously affected countries like Italy whose facilities are critical for the movement of goods to other parts of the world, especially to Africa.

Dr. Chitsunge described the crisis as a multi-faceted tragedy that calls for informed cooperation among all stakeholders because of its far-reaching consequences in the various aspects of people’s day to day life especially when it comes to access to critical life-saving resources.

Concerning the on-going food crisis in some African countries, she said that there is a need to urge farmers to diversify their crops given the persistent drought conditions in some parts of the continent which are making productivity for crops such as maize to be very difficult.

She added that Africa has also been affected by pests and diseases affecting crops and animals, a development that can be attributed to changes in weather and poor grazing land management.

In order to reduce and avoid food shortages in the future, she called for the adoption of sustainable land management and agricultural systems which safeguard livelihoods and enhance crop resilience in response to the impact of climate change.

Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge – Mustard (Tsunga) Field at Elpasso Farms, South Africa

Dr. Chitsunge who is also a farmer herself is partnering with schools and universities to promote a farming culture and has also opened her Elpasso Farm in South Africa to decision-makers, journalists and students in order to give them an on-site educational farming experience.

Speaking on the opportunities associated with cannabis, she said that Studies indicate that it could be one of the key agricultural commodities from Africa.

She further revealed that in Zimbabwe alone, hemp (cannabis) production has the potential to replace tobacco

The Ambassador who is also a Strategic Advisor to decision-makers in several governments warned that there is a potential risk of promoting clandestine channels for its trade if legalisation and commercialisation of cannabis are not well regulated. She, however, showed excitement on the awakening that is happening in SADC concerning the legalization of marijuana citing that so far, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho have all legalised cannabis, with Malawi having recently legalised the growing, selling and exporting of cannabis for research and medicinal purposes.

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