By Wallace Mawire
AFC Commercial Bank in Zimbabwe has supported the establishment of the large-scale Mafuro Safari Dairy Farm in Marondera District, Mashonaland East Province in Zimbabwe, which is expected to boost milk production in the country.
Government of Zimbabwe officials from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement, including officials from AFC Commercial Bank and other delegates, were formally invited on Friday May 20, 2022 at a field day at Mafuro Safari Farm at least 72km east of Harare will be assessed on business developments following bank support.
The government of Zimbabwe approved in 2020 the restructuring of Agribank into a holding company with four subsidiaries. AFC Commercial Bank (Agribank), AFC Land and Development Bank of Zimbabwe, AFC Leasing Company of Zimbabwe and AFC Insurance Company. The President of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa launched AFC Holdings on April 30, 2021. The next step was the rollout of products and services to each of the subsidiaries.
The AFC said in a statement that the relationship between Mafuro Farming and the AFc, which began when Mafuro was established, has grown and grown to produce the huge dairy business that has now become the benchmark for precision farming in the country’s dairy industry.
According to Francis Macheka, the CEO of AFC Holdings Group said that when it was established in 2018, Mafuro Agriculture approached the then Agribank with a proposal for its dairy project.
The company had obtained an operating lease at Grasslands in Marondera for approximately 200 hectares of the Grasslands Research Institute’s 1,700 hectares for the dairy project.
A composite facility of US$1 million has been set up to purchase heifers for milk production, as well as working capital for the operation of the dairy farm.
Macheka said the Mafuro farm managed to build up a dairy herd of around 546 animals of which 75 were being milked.
He added that in 2019, with more help from AFC, the farming business moved to phase two of its project at a larger farm located in Ruzawi, Marondera called Safari Farm, where the visit to the field took place.
The company managed to build a dairy herd of 554 cows. The total herd at both farms has grown to 1,100 cows. The combined production of the two farms was 12,400 liters of milk per day, or 372,000 liters per month.
Macheka added that in 2022 Mafuro signed a farm in Kwekwe to start phase three of the dairy project. The farm known as East Range Ranch is located next to the Sebakwe Game Park and draws its water from the Sebakwe Dam. The farm covers 4180 hectares with 560 hectares of arable land under irrigation.
AFC Bank said it was already working on a financing structure to cover the purchase of heifers, infrastructure and working capital.
The AFC also says that the partnership between the bank and agricultural company Mafuro has enabled the project to build a total herd of 1,099 dairy animals which produce an average of 19.3 liters of dairy cows per herd.
The field visit was facilitated by Mafuro Farm Owner and Manager, Sean Webster, along with the entire Mafuro Farming team and the Zimbabwe Dairy Farmers Association (ZADF).
Peter Haritatos, Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement said during the field visit that the government of Zimbabwe, through its Vision 2030 of a prosperous and self-reliant middle-income earner, has prioritized agricultural production and its value chains as the main driver of the economy with over 70% of people employed in the agricultural sector.
He said the agricultural sector continues to be the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy, contributing between 16-20% of GDP and 40% of exports.
“We plan to grow by another 10% this year 2022. We have a number of plans, including the Livestock Growth Plan, which aims to promote the growth and sustainability of livestock, including the dairy sector “, said Haritatos.
He added that the dairy industry has contributed significantly to agricultural transformation which is a top priority for the Government of Zimbabwe.
The deputy minister said the livestock sub-sector contributes to household and national food and nutrition security, foreign exchange earnings and is a source of income for a large number of Zimbabweans.
According to the ministry, about 30,000 people are employed in the dairy value chain sector and another 13,000 people are indirectly employed.
“For this reason, the government is very keen on the dairy sector and has therefore continued to allocate resources and other forms of support to the dairy sector. The participation of all categories of dairy farmers, from small to large scale, supports the achievement of Vision 2030 by facilitating the growth of the dairy sector by strengthening the dairy revitalization program, which is very commendable,” said Haritatos .