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After Mugabe: Zimbabwean farmer catching up on 40 years of development

Aid & Trade

Development stood still for Zimbabwean farmer Christopher ‘Stof’ Hawgood (54) of Tavistock Estates during the Mugabe-area. With the possibilities for investment and growth looking up in the country, Stof is working on modernising his dairy farm in a sustainable manner. At the same time, he wants to help other Zimbabwean farmers. Recently he came to the Netherlands for a Business Link visit, meeting (potential) business partners to further his plans.

“The foundation of all my operations is based on technologies that were relevant in the 1960s and 1970s.” says Stof. “I am trying to catch-up with the modern times, by modernising my own operation. My visit here is follow-up from a visit to Zimbabwe by Roelof van den Berg and Willem Boer, who came to give me advice on how to develop an intensive, large-scale dairy operation and how to manage the waste products from that dairy operation. The two things go hand-in-hand.”


Dairy expert Roelof van den Berg, owner of Tavistock Estates Christopher 'Stof' Hawgood, sustainable energy expert Willems Boers and manager of research institution De Marke Zwier van der Vegte.

“The planned changes will significantly reduce the farm’s CO2 emission.”

Biogas

Stof plans to build a free stall barn, paying special attention to the comfort of his cows and the environment. Dairy expert Roelof van den Berg (70): “Tavistock Estates wants to increase their herd from 700 cows to 2000 cows. They aim to have all operations - dairy, feed production, workers quarters – powered with biogas, solar and other potential renewable energy technologies (wind/hydro).” Sustainable energy expert Willem Boers (59) adds: “The biogas will be extracted on the farm from the manure produced by Stof’s own cows. The planned changes will make the farm operations self-sufficient regarding energy supply and in addition significantly reduce the farm’s CO2 emission.” 

Business linkages

As a member of the The Zimbabwe Association Of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) and a non-executive board member of dairy processing company Dairibord, Stof also came to the Netherlands to make business linkages for other Zimbabwean dairy farmers. Accompanied by PUM experts Roelof and Willem, Stof visited more than twenty companies/institutions ranging from a bio-digestion and wind farm to a semen company. Among other linkages, the farm owner…

  • met with two Dutch Semen companies aiming to import top quality Dutch semen into Zimbabwe. 
  • purchased seeds to experiment with fodder beets in Zimbabwe, as these are found to increase both feed intake as well as milk production of cows. 
  • learnt to mix acetic acid into the farm’s fodder, to reduce fermentation and rotting (heating up) of the feed.
  • investigated ultra sound scanning devices for pregnancy testing of dairy cows. The supply company confirmed that they could send six units to Zimbabwe, one for Tavistock Estates and five to be used by other Zimbabwean farmers associated with Dairibord at a competitive price. Also, a trainer will fly out to Zimbabwe to train the Dairibord vets so that they can teach other farmers how to operate the scanners.
  • received a copy of a building plan for a modern and advanced free stall barn. Stof intends to use this plan for his own development and to have it available for other Dairibord farmers.
  • made plans with dairy expert Roelof to recruit a young Dutch farmer for a three-year contract to come and work at Tavistock during the establishment and building of the new dairy and bio-gas operations, and to train the farm management team and workers to properly run the operation.
  • looked into export possibilities of used agricultural machines to Zimbabwe.
  • leased software programmes for the animal feed industry and farms in Zimbabwe for the composition of high-quality cattle feed.

“Hopefully my development can be used as a model for other Zimbabwean dairy farmers.”

Invaluable 

Stof: “This trip has proven to be invaluable. I gained a huge amount of knowledge. The reality of the complete holistic project is now tangible, practical and possible. I made important contacts to further advance my plan. Hopefully my development can be used as a model for other Zimbabwean dairy farmers about how to move forward in a sustainable manner. Not only in terms of milk production and cows, but in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

Text: Elise Mooijman
Photos & Video: Chris Reichard