Authored by: Andrew Eder
Editor’s Note: The following post originally appeared on the TechoServe Blog.
Brighton Makuvaza is the administrator of TechnoServe’s Agro Innovation Zimbabwe business plan competition in Harare, Zimbabwe. In that role, Brighton has helped coordinate every aspect of the program. The experience has shown him the promise of the agricultural sector to change lives in poor areas of Zimbabwe.
NextBillion.net: What is your role with TechnoServe, and what was your background prior to joining the organization?
Makuvaza: As the Agro Innovation Zimbabwe (AIZ) administrator, I work with successful candidates to ensure that they are on track and coordinate the administrative side of the grant process – everything from assisting with launch preparations to updating the website (www.aiz.co.zw) and collecting application forms.
The second phase of AIZ requires me to work closely with a volunteer consultant and in some cases, the finance manager, on developing grantee workplans, budgets and technical assistance, as well as developing the AIZ handbook. I also use what I’m learning through my work with clients to propose changes to next year’s grant program, and have been working on the launch of an AIZ business network to keep grantees and applicants connected throughout the year.
Prior to joining TechnoServe, I worked for the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, a civil society organization that helps fund the culture sector in Zimbabwe. I was an assistant projects officer responsible for monitoring and evaluation of supported projects, coordinating the grant application process and offering technical assistance to grantees.
I also have experience coordinating workshops and arts publications for different organizations and worked with the National Gallery of Zimbabwe as the media and information officer.
NextBillion.net: Why does Agro Innovation Zimbabwe specifically target businesses that include smallholder farmers in their business models?
Makuvaza: The focus on businesses that include smallholder farmers in their business model is born from the recent collapse of Zimbabwe’s previously sophisticated commercial agriculture sector, which has left processing companies keen to engage with small-scale farmers but lacking experience on how to do this. We believe that the future of Zimbabwe’s agriculture and agro-processing sectors will be characterized by medium-scale businesses with substantial smallholder farmer participation, and our aim through AIZ – as well as our other programs in Zimbabwe – is to create models of this new structure which can be scaled up to grow the sector in a competitive and inclusive way.