MEET PRECIOUS

The Mastercard Foundation - EARTH University Fellowship Program

Precious Nemutenzi

Country: Zimbabwe
Track: Employment
Position: Graduate Fellow for Agriculture
Host company/organization: Welthungerhilfe
About position: Precious empowers rural families to achieve sustainable food and nutrition through training in agriculture, resource management, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), alternative incomes, and nutrition.

Precious comes from the semi-urban area of Mutare in the Manicaland province of Zimbabwe. She developed an interest in agriculture at a young age, when she helped her mother with their home garden. Precious excelled in school and proved herself a leader. In 2013, she won a national essay contest on how to improve education in secondary schools in her region. She was also a leader in GEM, the Girl Empowerment Movement, and acted as vice president of her school’s branch of the international charity program LEO, Leadership Experience Opportunity.

When someone first recommended EARTH to Precious in high school, she knew it was the place for her. “I have always been interested in renewable energies. I would like to modernize my community so that we can generate a nation that is clean. In agriculture, I would love to learn how to revolutionize our systems in Zimbabwe so that we are not completely dependent on the rainy season. I want to help small farmers be able to produce all year.”

Precious shares that the multicultural environment catalyzed her personal growth during these four years, and that she now sees the world in a different way. “Before, I was just confined to my own little community, but coming here has opened my mind. EARTH’s academic model encourages teamwork and interaction in terms of personal relationships, which also helped me to grow and develop some essential soft skills.”

Professionally, Precious has gained knowledge and understanding in agriculture and community development, environmental studies, and sustainability. Because the agricultural science degree is very diverse, it provides her with many opportunities in her country and abroad. “Upon returning home, I can occupy diverse spaces, not just in agriculture but also in community development, environmental sciences, and many industries, even business.” She carried out her second-year internship in 2019 at Grasslands Research Institute and the Horticulture Research Institute in Zimbabwe, which provided her with practical skills in animal production as well as laboratory and research skills in sweet potato breeding, respectively.

As part of her work experience, Precious then provided farmers in the nearby community of Nuevo Horizonte with technical support in sustainable Integrated Pest Management to boost their yields while conserving biodiversity.

Her graduation project A Business Model on Food Products Derived from Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes to Enhance Nutrition Security, aimed to develop value-added products (chips and flour) from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and evaluate the technical, financial, and market feasibility of these products while comparing them to the primary production of the sweet potatoes. The proof of concept was used as a basis to select the most viable business model to commercialize the products in Zimbabwe in order to enhance nutrition security and create economic opportunities for youth.

She has already taken the first steps to kick-start her business. She worked on a business project, which involves primary sweet potato production and sustainable value addition, particularly for the orange varieties. “I began working on feasibility study as part of my graduation project, so now it is implementation time.” Precious is now part of the Mastercard Fellowship – EARTH University Program in Zimbabwe.

I think each person you meet has something special you wish to bring back with you.– Precious

She reminisces on the many transformative experiences attained during these last four years at EARTH: the people and their diverse backgrounds, the farms she had the chance to visit, her classmates from her own promotion, the helpful professors, the “madrinas/godmothers” (the Food & Beverage staff). “I think each person you meet has something special you wish to bring back with you.”

Precious is passionate about food and nutrition security, especially in sustainable agriculture and rural development spaces. She wants to work with smallholder farmers on implementing good agricultural practices to increase farm production and achieve food security, enhance climate change adaptation and resilience, and add value to farmers’ produce to access fair markets and improve their livelihoods. Precious is also devoted to crop value addition and agribusiness development.

She is driven to share the technical knowledge acquired at EARTH with her home community, in particular with local farmers. She eventually plans to train young people in the aspects of business that she is passionate about and, through her growing business, create programs to empower young people. “An MBA would be something I would really love to do, but it will depend on how things go in the next two to three years. I will really focus on my business and from there if some things come up, I will be planning along those ways.”

“Thank you so much for this opportunity, it has been a wonderful four years here in Costa Rica. I have learned so much at EARTH and had many opportunities to travel to conferences organized by the Mastercard Foundation, so I am grateful for that. I hope to take this and create a positive change in my communities, and I would love to see in the world.”

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