By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
A 30-year-old Honde Valley banana farmer is ecstatic after his value addition project bagged recently an award from a Value Creation Challenge that was being bankrolled by Old Mutual Zimbabwe and the British Council.
Bright Nezomba ‘s Nezox Investments clinched a prize money of US15 000 after his value-addition project which is using bananas to make flour, banana trunks to make fibre and banana pills to produce cattle stock was voted second best in the top 3 awards.
Radio VOP caught up with the innovative banana farmer who chronicled that it was not a mean task for him to scoop the award as he faced a plethora of challenges along the way.
The Value Creation Challenge started in 2019 where the competition called for start-ups from young entrepreneurs designed to tackle the effects of climate change.
“So it was in early 2019 when I got to know of the Value Creation Challenge on Facebook and Twitter where it was calling for business ideas on ‘climate action’ ,” said Nezomba.
He further said his initiative was selected among the best 100 start-ups which the company started with before being whittled down from 50 to 25 and subsequently 10 contestants for the finals.
“So initially 100 contestants were selected nationwide then we were again assessed and the top 50 made it to the next round where were now being required to send our pitches online.
“From the 50,25 were selected and then at that stage, the pitches were now being presented physically after being in boot camp for 3 days where we did go through rigorous training of how to pitch business ideas.
“10 best contestants were then selected for the final ,” revealed the banana farmer.
The 10 contestants got a six-month incubation in Harare getting business mentorship but owing to Coronavirus induced lockdown the organisers of the awards had to resort to online which was huge a challenge for the rural-based Nezomba where internet connectivity is intermittent.
“For 6-months we were in incubation where were taught on how to successfully manage our financials and run our business and we would come to Harare every month but because of COVID-19 everything became virtual.
“This was daunting for me since here in Honde Valley we battle with poor network,” added Nezomba.
During the finals contestants were obliged to pitch via Zoom but the rural banana farmer had to circumvent by doing videos which he would later post once internet connection was available.
“The final day was hectic because every contestant had to pitch using Zoom and on many occasions, I failed to connect so I had to record myself then send the pitch videos later.
“To my surprise, I was later contacted via Whatsapp that I had come second in the competition,” an ecstatic Nezomba recalled.
The young farmer was coy to answer how he intends to use the prize money in his value-addition project but Radio VOP noted that he has been battling high costs of energy to dry up his bananas and might use the prize money to boost up the solar system he is using.
The other top winners in the competition were Kumbirai Makanza of Asambe Mobility who took the first prize and Paidamoyo Muzangaza, founder of Bespoke Delights who was in third place.