After the British-Jamaican lady visited with her colleagues to Zimbabwe recently she fell in love with the southern African country such that they have now mooted mega plans to turn around and re-write the country’s agrarian landscape and history. Zim Abroad Magazine Editor Martin Chemhere brings you the full story.

Currently based in London, England, she had this say: “I have visited and stayed in Harare and Bulawayo.  I intend to return to become involved in agricultural and agribusiness projects aimed at helping to build farming cooperatives and find new markets for their produce.”

She holds a masters degree in Public Sector Strategy, her background is in the field of Economic Development and Regeneration, Community Development and Engagement, Race Relations and Project Management.  She has worked in the public, private and charity sector in various senior management capacities managing a variety of large projects.

Her interest in agriculture was sparked whilst working in local government on rural regeneration schemes. The work tied in well with her specialization in Project Management using the Prince 11 methodology for managing large projects.

“My methodology is to organise, mechanise and industrialise and in so doing create jobs, increase agricultural output and source new markets within the sector,” she explains.

In Zimbabwe she and her business colleagues will partner with cluster organisations that are working with rural farmers to access organically grown healthy produce for the local, regional and international markets.

‘Our aim is to build models that can be expanded and replicated in other regions”, she explains.

“Through our product marketing campaign we aim to promote selected organically grown produce as a healthy alternative to GM (genetically modified) stable crops and raise awareness of its health and nutritional benefits as a stimulus for improving health.

“We also aim to promote diaspora trips to Zimbabwe and diaspora investment in the agricultural sector to empower and strengthen local farmers, create jobs for young people and women and to help create a regular and sustained income.”

Why specifically did she and her colleagues choose Zimbabwe for the project?

“On visiting Zimbabwe, we were warmly welcomed and embraced by our African brothers and sisters.  We were blown away by the hospitality we received,” she explains.

She notes that together with her group they were also however, concerned to observe the extent to which GM corn is grown and eaten as the main staple diet and the growing fast food culture and its potential long-term health impact due to its lack of nutritional value. This is despite the existence of a wealth of alternative nutritional foods, which is presently being consumed far less despite their rich dietary fibres, abundance of antioxidants, vitamin A, B, C, D, E, potassium and Beta Carotene.

The main aim of their business is to stimulate a demand for these alternative produce, to promote the significant health benefits, that comes from eating a healthy diet and generate more knowledge, through the marketing of the products.

During their Zimbabwean trip they were very well received, the people were very hospitable, willing to help and keen to work with them. This left them feeling that they owe it to the people to contribute in any way possible to the growth and development of the country.

She explains: “Prior to visiting the country I expected to find a country that was poor, bleak, and underdeveloped, had very few farms, was unorganised and chaotic.  I also expected to see people in their cultural clothes, displays of uniquely African buildings and an African infrastructure.

“Instead I found a country that is rich in natural beauty, coloured by nature and has an abundance of green fields.   I was surprised to see the wealth of well maintained farms, thousands of farmers, westernised modern shopping malls, name brand shops, restaurants, Western fast food chains, wide roads, modern cars, office blocks, hotels and many other modern buildings.

“I was disappointed however not to see more African culture, African dress, African styled and designed buildings.  I was left feeling Zimbabweans are running the danger of losing its rich culture for a westernised culture.”

She believes agriculture is essential to the growth and development of Zimbabwe.  It is essential for the health of the nation and has the ability to generate huge financial returns for the country. Economically, agriculture should be perceived as liquid gold to Zimbabwe economy.

For the past 20 years Shanice has run an organisation called Starlight Music Academy and it has a long standing track record in empowering young people, adults and the unemployed through its programmes that have primarily been targeted at the African diaspora.

Asked what advice she would give those who looked up to her as a role model, she said: “My advice would be to look to Africa.  Don’t ask what Africa can do for you but ask yourself, what can I do for Africa.  Find your purpose in life, every one of us was born for a purpose.  Write your purpose in the form of an action plan and everyday be working towards executing your plan.  Don’t let fear stand in your way, don’t let negative thoughts or people stop you from fulfilling your purpose.”

Shanice believes the secret to success is determination, will power, positive self-talk and taking action.

She is motivated by “adopting a positive mental attitude towards life”.  “I am mindful that my ancestors paid a great price so I can enjoy my freedom today so I feel indebted to them to be all that I can be, to do all that I can do and not to waste my life.”

Her parting words were that her organization Starlight is going global, starting in Zimbabwe.  They have written a business plan that aims to set up an agribusiness plant in Zimbabwe, create jobs, support farming networks and deliver health and nutritional training for local people.  This business is driven by a social health and welfare agenda and they welcome donations from businesses and individuals.

“We want to  to be the charity of your choice for any charitable donations you are likely to make during the years, so we can grow into becoming an effective force in Zimbabwe and be the difference that we want to see”.