Originally published on October 10, 2014.
For Karichana Chidaya, a 69-year-old farmer and former conservation officer, making ends meet after retirement had always been challenging. Mr. Chidaya worked for the Zimbabwean government for 44 years. Yet, when he retired, he lost all of his savings and pensions as his country suffered from hyperinflation. He ran a local grocery store to support his family, but with intense competition and high stock prices, returns in the store were very low.
Karichana’s wife, Benita Chidaya, has always lived on their farm. She started in the dairy business in 1994 after the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority started the Dairy Development Program in South Gokwe. Soon after retirement, Karichana was encouraged by his wife to join her in dairy. He did so in 2010 when Land O’Lakes International Development, in partnership with the National Association of Dairy Farmers (NADF), started implementing the Building Livelihoods and Food Security in Zimbabwe through Interventions in the Livestock and Dairy Value Chains
Benita introduced the idea of dairy farming as a viable business to her husband.
In 1995, Benita milked 10 cows that produced 40 liters of milk per day, but through the project’s Cattle Bank Program, they were able to produce 52 liters per day from just three cows. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the program is assisting the most vulnerable households, particularly those headed by women, to increase meat and milk production, and to rebuild goat, cattle and dairy herds. Operating in Zimbabwe’s eastern province of Manicaland, Land O’Lakes is working with NADF to strengthen and, where necessary, re-establish the infrastructure,producer organizations and livestock assets necessary for an inclusive and productive local dairy industry. After paying for stock feeds, veterinary care and drugs, and cattle loan payments, the couple is now making US $400 every month. Proceeds from milk enabled them to hire two farm workers and pay agricultural inputs for the 2012-13 season. With four dairy cows, two dairy heifers and two calves, the Chidaya’s plans to increase their herd by two improved breed cattle every year.
At the climax of their business, from August to December 2012, they made about US $1,000 per month from an average of 1,500 liters of milk. Karichana was then able to purchase a new engine for his Mazda truck and sent his youngest son to college in Harare. Last year, the couple won second place nationally in the Small Holder Dairy Farmer of the Year competition. But, this is just the beginning for this retired couple.
With Benita in charge of bookkeeping and overall dairy business management, the market for their milk is unlimited and the couple now has a much brighter future. Although he lost all his pensions and savings after retirement, the project’s Cattle Bank Program gave the Chidaya’s hope and security that their lives will be better, and they will worry less about their future. “Dairy is now my pension,” claimed Karichana.