Two years ago, Mavis Kanjadza quit her job as a finance manager in one of the leading banks and went into farming. From the age of 14, all that she ever wanted to do when she grew up was to become a farmer.
She understood then, that agricultural productivity has the capacity to drive economies and change lives, and she knew she wanted to be a part of that change. However, she became an accountant and began to climb up the corporate ladder.
The further she progressed in her finance career, the further away she moved from her childhood dream. She had a great job as finance manager of a leading bank; good pay and great prospects in the finance and banking sector.
“At the time I was pondering on my career change, I had offers from other banks for more lucrative roles. However, deep inside I knew my goals and aspirations were not in the corporate world. I could not shake them off, and believe me, I tried,” explains Kanjadza, founder and director of Kanjadza Acres in Lilongwe.
She recalls reasoning with herself; giving herself logical reasons why she should not change careers, why she should ignore the crazy dream and do the normal, the acceptable, and the sensible.
She was so afraid to change that ‘normal’ and pursue the unknown, but quickly understood again that nothing worthwhile ever happens in one’s comfort zone.
“For me, faith opposes fear and I got loaded on God’s truth and fear moved further away; I still feel it, but it doesn’t drive me like it did before. That is where the group, Beautiful Feet became a real support for me.
“Beautiful Feet is a women’s growth group I founded four years ago, and we meet fortnightly to pray, connect and learn. It has phenomenal women who make a great support system, and I find that makes a world of difference,” she says.
Her vision is to play a key role in the economic empowerment agenda for Malawi and Africa by participating in the end to end agricultural value chain. The agricultural value chain begins with production, which is basically farming, and that is where she has started with her business.
A University of Malawi graduate and a chartered accountant, Kanjadza grows horticultural produce, including tomatoes, bell peppers, beets, peas and melons among so many others and supplies to private individuals and local traders in Mpingu as well as to supermarkets within Lilongwe.
The very social young woman who enjoys connecting with people, as well as inspiring and being inspired, admits that moving from her job as a finance manager to a farmer has had its challenges. But then she is quick to say that it is all in line with her vision of contributing to economic empowerment of the unemployable and contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Malawi and Africa.
“I truly believe there is an empowerment and a confidence that can only be attained through the pursuit of one’s God given dreams; it breeds tenacity and joy. I love what I do, I am growing, and my tag line is ‘growing greatness’. It’s me declaring I am boldly becoming what I was meant to be,” she says.
The young mother of one says courage came completely and absolutely from her faith in Jesus Christ. She sometimes has to pinch herself to be reminded that she really left her job; the comfort of a salary and the promise of corporate success. But she says she was simply tired of being afraid; giving excuses and wondering if ever she was capable of achieving the things she only dared to dream about.
“I read a number of books too and I do not know any great or successful person who did not take a chance at what everyone else deemed ridiculous at its onset; so I guess I am in good company. My mantra is Phillipians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” she says.
Kanjadza notes that Agriculture is only the backbone of the economy when done strategically and professionally, just like any other corporate business.
She appreciates her time in the corporate sector, saying it exposed her to the ways of running a world class sustainable business which includes having a defined strategic direction, clear customer value preposition, good governance and defined systems and processes.
“All these and many others come together in the running of a successful enterprise and for me to confidently build Kanjadza Acres and that will be one way of contributing to economic growth. A well organised business would lead to
sustainability, which would in turn lead to employment, quality and consistent production which can reduce the inflationary effect of food scarcity that comes due to seasonality. Seasonality of produce is primarily caused by over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture,” says Kanjadza, adding that it would also help to offset the imported produce thereby saving foreign exchange.
The young farmer is a Christian, married to Pempho Kanjadza and they are parents of a son, Watimva who is almost two years old.
“Those two are the grace of my life. My family means the world to me and that includes my parents and my sisters, Marjory and Phyllis and my brothers Buchi and Masankho,” she says.
She grew up in Blantyre and pursued her Bachelor’s Degree in Accountancy at the University of Malawi’s Polytechnic. She is also a chartered accountant with the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA).
She has spent over eight years in finance, accounting and lecturing. She has passion for economic empowerment through agribusiness which she confidently says she will spend her whole life pursuing.
She is also one of the few selected for this year’s Young African Leaders Initiative (Yali). What motivated her to apply for this year’s Yali experience? Kanjadza says: “I truly believe in my capability to effect change. I owe Malawi the best version of me possible and I want to make certain that I serve her to the best of my ability and to ensure that my abilities are sharpened and working perfectly. I owe this nation. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is my opportunity to learn from others, serve and give back to my own”.
For the passionate woman that she is; loyal, driven, funny, outspoken and feisty; Kanjadza is excited about the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for its networking platform with other African world changers.
“The future is pan African. Being afforded the privilege of interacting and connecting with driven young Africans from all over the continent is just mind blowing. These networks will truly be priceless in my economic empowerment agenda for Malawi and Africa,” she says.
She calls on younger girls to know who they are; why they are here, what their gifts and talents are and how they fit in the purpose God made them for.
She believes that everyone has the power to change their lives and that of others, when they stop being afraid and follow their God given goals and dreams.
One can tell when a dream is God given when they just cannot shake it off, in spite of time passed and all the negatives known and heard. n