Ruramiso Mashumba, is a young farmer who means business. She has combined her formal academic training with traditional wisdom from her grandmother to establish a successful African Rice enterprise.

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Part of the harvest of Ruramiso’s African rice (Oryza glaberrima)

How it all started

Ruramiso developed a passion for farming while studying at Watershed College which is adjacent to her parent’s farm. After doing a diploma in agriculture at 17, which she passed with a first class and two distinctions, Ruramiso went to the UK to study agriculture. She returned to the family farm in 2010 and began growing horticulture crops for export to the European Union and South Africa. But inspired by her grandmother she also put a small area of land under traditional African rice cultivation. Last year she harvested 1,5 tonnes, developed a brand (Mnandi) and is currently looking to expand.

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Ruramiso told Naturally Zimbabwean the story of how she came to become a traditional African rice farmer. “My grandmother used to grow brown rice to feed her children but she never commercialised it. She grew it at her homestead which is 5km away from the farm. I got a bit of seed from her and decided to take it as an opportunity to grow it in her name … Currently in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, we are faced with high rates of food insecurity and a lot of the conventional crops we are growing are not achieving desirable yields because of climate change. Traditional indigenous grains are more sustainable to our environment which is something we need to consider. Also a lot of the traditional grains are very nutritious and can be eaten as wholegrain.”

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Ruramiso at the wheel

Organic cultivation

Ruramiso is committed to organic cultivation methods. Since her father is a livestock farmer she has an abundant source of manure which she uses to fertilise the crop. She notes: “organic crops taste better than conventional crops and I also believe we need to use less fertilisers and protect our environment.”

Challenges

Growing the rice is not difficult but the greatest challenge Ruramiso faces is milling the grain. Since she does not have a rice mill she has been using a de-huller but this sometimes breaks the grain which makes it less desirable for some consumers. She says that cleaning and de-stoning the rice is also a challenge. “I would like to supply a rice that consumers can microwave without having to clean it first,” she explains. Her advice to other traditional rice farmers is to consider mechanising the rice milling so it is not so labour intensive to process.

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Promoting traditional foods

Ruramiso feels that the consumption of traditional foods in Zimbabwe is increasing as more and more people are becoming health conscious. She also grows millet and sorghum which she eats as porridge. Her favourite dish is rice with peanut butter and free range chicken. She boils one cup of rice in three cups of water and cooks it until it is almost dry. She then adds a table spoon of peanut butter and mixes well while the pot is still on a low heat until the rice is dry and well cooked.

Spreading the ideas

In addition to managing her own venture, Ruramiso is working with women and youth in her community, training them in the importance of nutrition and climate smart agriculture. She is also the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union youth wing.