Marlon Gwede is the 2018 ZADF National small holder dairy farmer of the year who is runs a dairy enterprise at farm no. 29 in the purchase area of Chitomborwizi East. The 64 Ha farm on which he operates is a family farm purchased in 1953 by his late grandfather, Tichareva Gwede. After the passing on of Mr Tichareva Gwede, the farm was inherited by his two sons Solomon and Kimpton of which Mr Kimpton Gwede is Marlon’s father. In passing on the legacy, Mr Gwede senior is currently guiding Marlon on implementing various agricultural projects at the farm. On the social side of life, Marlon is a 43 year old family man blessed with a lovely wife Caroline and five sons whom he believes will carry on with the family business.
Value chain Linkages
Chitomborwizi is a farming area (comprising of 440 farms) located in Mashonaland west province and is home to the Chitomborwizi Network which is a farmer-community owned development organisation whose vision is to be the community transformation model of first choice through coordination and implementation of diverse economic projects which include dairy. The Network’s project receives support from ZADF, Nestle, Government and various other dairy value chain actors. Marlon joined the Network in 2014 has been an active member since then and he currently holds the position of youth Chairman.
Dairy operations with best management practices
Marlon started to seriously concentrate on dairy in November 2016 after receiving five jersey cows which had been repossessed from one of the Network farmers who had faced challenges in managing them. These cows had been allocated under the Nestle Zimbabwe dairy empowerment scheme which has the objective of contributing to national development of the dairy industry. Because Marlon insures his herd, two of the five jerseys later died and were replaced with two Friesland cows.
The current herd is composed of 7 mature lactating and 2 mature non-lactating which are at advanced stages of pregnancy. There are also 6 heifers of which 1 is pregnant, 2 are at bulling stage and 3 are weaners. The 7 lactating cows are producing an average of 16 liters on milking twice a day whilst the highest producer is giving a maximum of 25 litres.
Together with other Chitomborwizi East dairy farmers, Marlon’s team loads a daily average of 115 liters onto an aggregation truck for delivery at their milk collection center situated at Portlet Estate, some 20 km from the Gwede farm. From Portlet Estate, the milk is then collected by a tanker destined for the Nestle Zimbabwe factory for processing.
The dairy farming system used at the Gwede farm is zero grazing whereby cattle are fed on hay, silage and complementary stock feeds for maximum productivity. As a measure for reducing the cost of production, Marlon conducts on farm research in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Open University to produce home grown fodder for his dairy herd. For the 2018/19 agricultural farming season, he grew five and half hectares of maize for silage making of which 2 hectares had maize intercropped with cowpeas in a bid to enhance protein content levels of the silage. His expected silage yield for this crop is around 40 tonnes which is much less than what they usually get because of the persistent dry spell which was experienced this season.
Mr Gwede strives towards the implementation of best dairy farm management practices. He conducts the farm’s main dairy operations with the aid of Nestle Agriculture Services Officers, local government Livestock and Veterinary Officers as well as casual and permanent employees. Seven permanent workers are maintained throughout the year and around 23 casual workers are hired during the peak of the farming season. Two of the seven permanent workers focus specifically on day to day running of the dairy project.
Besides the dairy enterprise, the Gwede family is into tobacco and beef production. They grew 5 Ha of tobacco during the 2018/19 season and are expecting to deliver 9000 to 11 000 kg to the auction floors this marketing season.
The vibrant beef herd is now numbering around 126, composed of 4 pedigree bulls, 3 are of the Boran breed and one Brahman. 75% of the female beef herd is in-calf and around 60 calves are expected to have been dropped down by end of December this year. The family’s vision is to transform their beef herd by crossing the Mashona with the Boran and Brahman breeds which they have observed to produce excellent offspring which fairly adapt to harsh climate conditions.