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Tinodaishe Mukarati in her greenhouse at her hydroponic farm in Zimbabwe
Tinodaishe Mukarati in her greenhouse at her hydroponic farm in Zimbabwe | Photo courtesy of Kovedzayi Takawira

Mother-daughter team in Zimbabwe expand hydroponic farming industry

The first time we harvested, it felt so good to win; to hold the entitlement of our achievement. The veggies we grew were for family consumption, but soon we realized we could commercialize our small space and sell to others. We took our produce to market and people liked it.

Hydroponic farmer in Zimbabwe Kovedzayi Takawira
Interview Subject
Tinodaishe Mukarati is a young hydroponic farmer based in Harare, Zimbabwe in Africa. She is started in her mother’s backyard and has expanded the business to include two farms, product to market, and educational opportunities. She is a hydroponics trainer.
Background Information
Zimbabwe is experiencing a shortage of farming land under the impact of climate change making it difficult for farmers to produce standard goods. Mukarati has found hydroponic farmer to be a solution to these problems.

HARARE, Zimbabwe ꟷ In 2017, my mother started a hydroponic farm. The technique boasts little popularity in Africa. When the idea came to her, she had to look to Europe to learn. Startup proved very difficult. We copied notes from the internet and watched YouTube videos. Sometimes we made simple copy errors.

We adapted templates we discovered on YouTube from other geographic areas with different climatic conditions. This led to ups and downs, and we experienced losses. For six months, we underwent a period of trial and error, planting seeds, failing, and going back to the table until we got it right.

We have no agricultural background. My mother worked in finance, and I studied Hospitality. We almost resorted back to traditional farming, but we kept on trying until we got the formula right. We continue experimenting today.

Mother-daughter team harvests first hydroponic farming crops

Hydroponics is a new farming technology, different from the kind of farming we were taught by our grandmothers. I fell in love with the project immediately and my mom began mentoring me to take over the business. I dedicated myself to the process with passion and determination.

This method of farming is clean and smart. I don’t enjoy playing in the dirt and hydroponic farming is not dirty. We don’t use soil. In many ways, it brings out the feminine side of me.

The first time we harvested, it felt so good to win; to hold the entitlement of our achievement. The veggies we grew were for family consumption, but soon we realized we could commercialize our small space and sell to others. We took our produce to market and people liked it.

Soon, we began supplying crops to two supermarkets and a few restaurants. We sensed an urgency to continue expanding and acquired another piece of land. We now have two sites. It was astonishing to learn that even with bigger space, we still could not meet the market demands in our region.

Clean, fast crops allow family to supply vegetables to market

In this work, I do not have to wake up early in the morning like traditional farmers. The work is not labor intensive.

A 20-liter bucket waters the plants for three days depending on the size of the plants, eliminating the work of filling water drums every single day. I monitor the power to ensure the pumps continuously supply water and check the health of the plants.

Tinodaishe Mukarati holds a hydro plant she cultivated on her farm
Tinodaishe Mukarati holds a hydro plant she cultivated on her farm | Photo courtesy of Kovedzayi Takawira

When we supply our plants to the market, we leave the roots in case we fail to make a sale that day. This allows us to replant them back in the pipes and sell them on another day.

Using only water and a soilless method, we grow different types of lettuce and a variety of herbs for home and commercial use. This creates advantages. When the plants mature, they appear more clean, healthy, and fresh. They require less water because we recycle all the water we use. One person can manage the farm without a lot of land. We grow different plants at the same time without crop rotations.

When I harvest my plants, I simply clean the channels; and I harvest every four to six weeks versus eight weeks for traditional soil farming. I believe anyone can do this if they start small and monitor the system. We tried quite a few times before we fully understood how to measure our nutrients and soil PH.

With climate change, hydroponic farming provides a viable solution

With temperatures changing all over the world, I feel satisfied knowing hydroponic farming offers a solution. Growing inside in a controlled environment, we do not fight unpredictable rain or sunlight. This method protects the environment with little pollution, contamination, soil erosion, harsh chemicals, or harm to the land. We only use solar energy. This helps with climate change.

Replacing fertilizers with natural nutrients means our water reservoirs remain safer and our expenses remain low. We generate little waste and use every bit of material continuously.

Healthy crops at Tinodaishe Mukarati’s hydroponic farm in Zimbabwe | Photo courtesy of Kovedzayi Takawira

With our country facing lack of jobs, my mom and I have created a business opportunity but we have to be innovative to make things work. We can harvest and sell every single day due to the high demand for vegetables. Hydroponic farming proves favorable to the youth who don’t have as much access to land and my not be homeowners.

My greatest joy is passing on my knowledge to others. Today, I train people and go into schools and companies to talk about hydroponics. Junior schools come to our farm to learn. We have even begun to fix and supply hydroponic systems. 

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Kovedzayi Takawira is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Harare, Zimbabwe.