Success story of a young woman making it big in farming – Maria Zileni
Maria Zileni Zaloumis other wise known as the Zed farmer who has brought a huge difference into the agriculture sector .
Looking at her from away and away from her farm many would think twice if this is really the woman who has grabbed the Agriculture sector by storm.
A nurse by profession, turned into a farmer when she returned home from Australia after discovering that her father’s land had being going to worst without being used for the right purposes , Maria had to choose between the hospital or the farms, her mind was finally made up , she turned into a farmer and began to make a difference in the Agriculture sector.
At only the age of 32, Maria is looked at as one of the most successful new farmers in Zambia , her farm Tuzini Farms LTD, situated in 10 miles on the northern side of Lusaka, employs a total number of 62 people of which 40 are women and the rest are men , Maria also employs local youths who are on holidays from school at her farm to keep them busy and have them earn some money as they prepare to open their school .
On weekends, her workers enjoy the privileges of a literacy program at which many of them are taught how to read and write .
Out of her hard work and endless efforts to produce good tomatoes, she also supports small kids who are under the care of the Mwachikoka Baptist church in Lusaka.
Maria broke records when she became the youngest to sit on the Zambia national farmers union board (ZNFU), which eventually saw her becoming the youngest Director of the farmers union after she was voted into that position by the farmers .
Apart from being CEO at Tuzini Farms , she also serves as the young emerging farmers initiative ambassador , African pride insurance Ambassador and National Chairperson for Fruit and Vegetables under ZNFU.
Under her care , Tuzini Farm now produces a total number of 300 boxes of tomatoes per day and is also the major supplier of tomatoes to Freshmark(SHOPRITE) country wide , also supplies tomatoes to Ndola’s Masala market , Kitwe’s Chisokone market, which is one of the biggest markets in Zambia and also supplies her tomatoes as far as Kasumbalesa boarder post .
Apart from tomato farming , Maria has also ventured into livestock with a total number of 37 cattle for beef and also plans to diversify into onion farming in 2018 as she has managed to acquire two more farms Namely Tuzini 2 and Tuzini 3 which will see a good number of people getting employed .
When asked what are some of the major challenges she has faced as a farmer, Maria said the fluctuation in the price of tomatoes is a major challenge.
“Fluctuation in the price of tomatoes has been a major challenge for me as you can not project the income for the coming months”
“Being a woman has been a huge challenge for me in the Agriculture sector , because traditionally most farmers are men , I have faced a lot of challenges with male farmers in our sector ” Maria Said .
My advise to my fellow women is especially those who want to join the farming sector is that it’s not an easy job to be a woman farmer , so many challenges, but with consistency , focus and hard work everything is possible. You also need to be patient and strong , cause not everyday is a good day ,but the key to it all is that being a woman should not be a limitation to anything .