Tafadzwa Matika ’10 always had a passion for pursuing a career in Public Health, but he could hardly imagine combining this journey with a concurrent career path through agriculture.
After he was awarded the Robertson Scholarships in 2012, Tafadzwa proceeded to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he studied Public Health, before joining the Clinton Health Access Initiative as a program coordinator on the Global Vaccines Delivery team.
“Loosely speaking, my team and I work to strengthen immunization systems in low- and middle-income countries so as to help prevent vaccine-preventable deaths and diseases,” said Tafadzwa.
But life took an interesting turn two years ago when Tafadzwa gravitated back to his old routes to save his father’s farm from bankruptcy.
“I first started working in agriculture out of obligation. My family owns a farm that we had rented out from the time my mom had passed away (when I was in my first year at ALA). My father had already had passed on several years before and no one in my family was really equipped to carry-on farming and so leasing out the farm had been the most logical choice at the time. However, the farmer we had leased out the property to kept making record losses and was never really able to build out the farm in the way he had hoped. In fact, after 8 years he declared bankruptcy right around the time when I had just come back from the US and had just started working for CHAI. He had accumulated close to $60,000 worth of electricity debts; had failed to pay the farmworkers for over two months and failed to secure contracts or funding for the 2017/18 season and was thus unable to continue farming,” said Tafadzwa.
His main priority was to protect the workers on the farm which he did sacrifice his salary and life savings.
“I had no major life-savings and while my salary was comfortable for maybe a small family in Zimbabwe, it was nowhere near enough to support the needs of the farm but my brother and I soldiered on,” said Tafadzwa.
However, this was not enough. After being rejected by the banks and Tafadzwa and his brother had to use the last bit of their inheritance to keep the farm afloat.
“All we had was 10,000 USD to jump-start operations and for the next 9 months, I devoted almost all of my salary to meeting the running costs for the business. Thankfully we survived; the seed maize was a success and that was the beginning of the road to recovery for the farm,” said Tafadzwa.
After getting the farm on track and securing the jobs of the farmworkers, Tafadzwa realized he needed another form of income to sustain his father’s farm. This is when he made his way back to the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
“I first found out about CHAI from Mr. Ed Brakeman as a junior in college but didn’t apply for any jobs as I was indecisive on what I wanted to do post-graduating. It was only after I finished my undergraduate degree that I applied to CHAI and was fortunate to get a job with them based in my home country Zimbabwe. This has allowed me to pursue the two careers that I love simultaneously”
“I never imagined this sort of life as an ALA student, but I have found it to be deeply enriching. We are going into our third season on the farm, and we expect to employ 50 people (or possibly more during harvesting) to triple our initial production and quadruple profits. It has been stressful at times, but it has been one of the greatest privileges of my life”, says Tafadzwa.
Do you know of a young leader like Tafadzwa, nominate them for the ALA two-year Diploma Program.