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Clarah,
CAMA Agripreneur,
Zimbabwe

Clarah was the first member of her family to finish school, and the first to pursue higher education. Her story begins in a marginalized rural community in Zimbabwe, where she experienced poverty and hardship throughout her childhood. Clarah’s parents both lived with a disability, and relied on subsistence farming to try and support their six children. Despite efforts to keep Clarah in school, funds and hopes for the future dwindled as time went on.  

There was little expectation that her life could be different from her parents’, so Clarah felt great excitement and relief when she was selected to receive support from CAMFED. With the ability to complete secondary school, she knew this could open up a very different future for her family.

When she graduated, Clarah joined the CAMFED alumnae association, CAMA, a peer-support network of young women leaders, active across sub-Saharan Africa. 

In 2014, Clarah was one of 15 CAMA members who travelled to EARTH University in Costa Rica to attend a tailored six-week course in Sustainable Agricultural Systems. She  also holds a degree in Sociology and Gender Development Studies, with integrated Agricultural Practices. Her studies have enabled Clarah to become one of CAMA’s growing number of climate-smart agriculture experts.

In 2018, she was elected by her peers as the Deputy National Chairperson of CAMA in Zimbabwe, where the network already numbered  53,686 young women.

“I am involved in many decision-making boards which are highly beneficial to other people’s lives, whether it be in the family, in the community, or in my country.”

Clarah’s thriving business combines poultry keeping and animal husbandry with horticulture. She grows crops including maize, legumes, green vegetables, tomatoes and bananas. Her productivity is such that she is able to supply local schools, supermarkets, hotels and other community members with meat and vegetables. She is proud that her business is able to offer appealing products, that are packaged well and encourage her customers to return. With the profits from her successful enterprise, Clarah is able support herself, her family and members of her community, including donating school supplies to help vulnerable children remain in education.

In the last ten years, Clarah has observed climatic changes in Zimbabwe including more erratic rainfall and fluctuating temperatures. She is passionate about sustainable practices and resource management, helping her community to build resilience and  reduce, reuse and recycle the resources available to them. On her farm Clarah uses various methods to conserve water, including placing green maize husks into the soil and using intercropping - planting different crops and trees together, so that those with longer taproots can help provide more water for the others.

Clarah supports other women to use similarly simple yet innovative and sustainable techniques. She has trained other CAMA members to use organic matter to enrich the soil on their farms and improve crop yields, as well as to collect waste paper and packaging to weave baskets to sell. She has also introduced many community members to the use of solar dryers to help them preserve the fruit and vegetables they grow, and create value addition when taking the produce to market.

Maize is a widely grown crop in Zimbabwe

Women grow much of Africa’s food; by supporting female entrepreneurs we can improve productivity and reduce hunger. (Photo: CAMFED/Brandon Smith)

She trains community members in  financial literacy, helps them to access small loans, and to understand supply chains, bringing increased prosperity to those around her.

“I’m determined to work tirelessly to promote other girls and young women in my community to be economically and socially independent.”

As a leader and role model, Clarah sits on the Board of the CAMFED Community Development Committee at one of the local schools, as part of a team of dedicated officials, teachers, parents and others. Together they identify issues and take action to resolve them, ensuring more children are supported to go to school, succeed and become leaders and changemakers in their communities and beyond.

In May 2019 Clarah represented her community and the CAMA network in London, when CAMFED unveiled its first ever garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. She shared her knowledge of horticulture, explaining the climate-smart methods and crops featured in the garden. She also talked about how, together with her CAMA sisters, she is poised to help even more girls and women in education and enterprise.

“When they see me, they see an achiever.”

Having seen her parents and grandparents scrape a meagre income from market-gardening, Clarah seized on education and training opportunities to help her establish a flourishing agricultural enterprise. She is the main breadwinner in her family and supports her two sons at secondary school. Clarah is perpetuating a virtuous cycle of change, enabling her family and community to break out of poverty, mitigate climate change and work towards a sustainable future together.