What started as a hobby nine years ago has now become an agricultural business in two different countries. Today, former accountant Justin Dziruni has 12 full-time employees and a number of seasonal workers.
His company, Zazo Boergoats raises Boergoats goats and Red Kalahari goats. Through this indigenous herding operation in Mashonaland, eastern Zimbabwe, Dziruni is able to supply goats across Gauteng, Limpopo and his native Zimbabwe.
In an interview with Food For Mzansi, Dziruni said he hopes to one day start a goat breeding academy to develop the next generation of farmers. This year he was named Farmer of the Year in the SA-Zim Archivers competition.
Tiisetso Manoko: Your total herd is close to 400 goats. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who started out in the corporate world. How did you fall in love with the dynamic agricultural sector?
Justin Dziruni: I started farming when I was a little boy. I spent the first years of my life on rural land in Honde Valley, Zimbabwe. However, the seed for breeding was planted by my uncle when I was in high school.
He was a successful cattle rancher, but also kept a few goats. I loved visiting his farm in Nyanga during school holidays. I loved being around cattle and dreamed of having my own herd one day. Life gave me a different path and I became a goat herder instead.
Judging by your impressive operation, you must have a degree in agriculture…
I [actually] have no formal agricultural qualification. Growing up, I followed my other passion, accounting, which culminated in my CPA degree. Most of the knowledge about goat keeping that I learned was through self-study; learn from goat industry experience and mentors.
What prompted you to get into farming?
Interestingly, I always wanted to retire on a farm. The grueling demands of the accounting profession forced me to find ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This is what led me to practice hobby farming on weekends from 2013. I acquired a plot in Vereeniging and started as an amateur market gardener on weekends.
What started as hobby farming turned into some commercial operations after realizing that I could still enjoy the plot on my weekend visits, but could earn some money by becoming commercial .
The vegetable business grew by leaps and bounds to a point where we needed to expand. It was in this quest for additional land that I came across this land in Modimolle. The first thought that came to mind when I saw it was “goats”.
This is because the land was a mixture of shrubs and trees which I knew the goats liked to roam through when I visited my uncle’s farm at the time. I bought the land in 2014 and it is currently our main goat farming base.
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What challenges have you encountered in the goat industry?
The biggest challenge for me has been balancing the demands of my day job. To meet this challenge, it was imperative that I employ a farm manager to lead the farm operations. My responsibility is mainly to drive the strategic direction of the farm. I also decided to focus only on goat production because it takes less time from me.
The key, however, is having a trusted farm manager and employees. I consider myself very lucky to have a team of workers who are excellent.
So you’re not just farming, you’re also exporting. Didn’t it come with a lot of paperwork?
When you are a Boer goat farmer, the demand for your goats comes from all over the world. I had the chance to export goats to different countries in Africa.
The export process is quite onerous as there are many animal health protocols that must be followed in addition to having the goats to be exported inspected by judges from the Boer Goat Association.
Wow! I can only imagine how other promising farmers on Food For Mzansi will look up to you. Do you have a special message for them?
The biggest step you can take is to start. I learned a lot by getting my hands dirty. Literally. As you can see from my own journey, it is above all your passion that will carry you even when you have challenges to overcome.
Although farming is hard work, it is extremely rewarding if you are willing to put in the hard work that is required. If Zazo can do it and succeed, so can you!
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