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AgriTech in Africa Can Pave the Way for Global Food Security

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“Humanitarian aid should never be a challenge for African societies. If we can coordinate and manage production among 33 million smaller holder farmers, we have enough for ourselves and to feed the world.”

 

Tendai Chitapi, the co-founder of the agritech startup Kuronga, has lived and worked in some of the biggest cities in the world. During a 17-year career in finance, his humble beginnings in Harare took him to Durban, then Shanghai, Dubai, and finally Sandton. No longer inspired by the glamour of a big city life, Chitapi packed it all up to find home on a farm in Vaal River.

 

“If you told me 5-years ago that I would be working with the land as a farmer, I would have laughed,” he says. While on his farm, listening to the turtle doves cooing, he adds, “I will never go back into a corporate space. The relationship with the land and farming is a daily teacher”.

 

Kuronga was established by Chitapi and his childhood friend Oliver Windram. Though their paths crossed over the years, their journeys were remarkably different. Chitapi was fortunate to attend private school on a scholarship. His academic gifts were further supported into university by a well-known audit and consulting firm. While passion at the time guided his heart towards genetic engineering, his head advised him toward the less risky career option in accounting. As Chitapi climbed his way up the corporate ladder, honing his skills in business development, Windram was establishing himself in research and innovation, pursuing his doctorate and then post doctorate in plant biology.

 

“I went to China with misconceptions, and it turned out to be an eye-opening experience. Shanghai is very advanced in infrastructure and like a different world,” he says. “But they are not superhumans in Asia. We are equally capable of building public systems and utilities that are effective. We must nurture skills locally and elevate leadership that doesn’t take shortcuts,” he says. “I am encouraged by the potential of Africa. I am still hopeful, that’s why I’m here. It is my passion and my heart. We are not any less capable than people elsewhere.”

 

Born in Zimbabwe, a country that has a tumultuous history with agriculture, Chitapi and Windram identified a challenge of smallholder farmers that cuts across Africa’s extensive agricultural landscape. Kuronga, a Shona word for problem solving, is a company that uses AI to reduce food waste, improve food quality, and coordinate smallholder farmers into a larger, stable network.

 

“Small farmers in Africa are the most underutilised resource on the continent. We must support farmers break out of poverty, make their land productive, grow quality crops, and access markets,” he says. “Humanitarian aid should never be a challenge for African societies. If we can coordinate and manage production among 33 million smaller holder farmers, we have enough for ourselves and to feed the world.”

EMBED: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaLgFwbibkU

 

For now, the long-term goal of Kuronga is to scale up to one million farmers and positively transform our food systems. To do this, Kuronga coordinates growing programmes, uses technology to eliminate uncertainty, and works to improve the profitability and viability of smallholder operations.

 

“I grew up with the notion that farming is for the poor man. But at private school, I went to school with farmers children,” he says. “Agriculture has been positioned as a dirty thing that only poor people do. But those who have the land hold onto it fiercely because it is an important resource for generational wealth creation.”

 

“Kuronga gave me a strong sense of purpose. I felt that I could do so much more and give more to the world than balance sheets.” On his own 2-hectare plot, Chitapi is at the forefront of the farming journey and is earning passive income of his own. “I am facing the very same challenges of the farmers we want to help.”

 

The partnership between Chitapi and Windram brings together two unique skillsets. Arguably, this purposeful collaboration has allowed them to execute on their ideas and inch closer towards their transformational objectives in record time. In 4-years since they’ve established Kuronga they have already developed a network of over 1,000 farmers across South Africa for their pilot and was a finalist in the inaugural Milken-Motsepe Prize for AgriTech.

 

“I want everyone to be a farmer and grow something. People take for granted how the food they consume comes to their table. Small farmers are invisible. Someone has grown our food, cared for it in a labour of love. We want people to understand that while we eat every day, someone is growing it every day. Small farmers must take their rightful place in society – similar to health workers during COVID – we shouldn’t wait for the crisis of food security to happen to elevate our support small farmers.”