An Agronomist passionate about crop production and other agricultural practices that contribute to food security Sheila Zulu has worked with small scale and commercial farmers in various roles for the past 15 years.
Sheila’s credentials include a Master’s Degree in agriculture science and production systems from Harper Adams University in UK, a Bachelor of Technology in Agriculture Management from the University of South Africa, a National Diploma in Agriculture (Major in Crop science) from the Natural Resources Development College, an Advanced Diploma in Insurance from the Zambia Insurance Business College, Seed Inspection Training at the Seed Control and Certification Institute and she has completed courses in Conservation Agriculture and Tillage Techniques at the Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust (GART).
Her work life has encompassed the management of agricultural projects to develop best farm practice for sub-Saharan Africa. Training and field demonstrations to farmers on basic agronomy and conservation tillage techniques, processing of agriculture policies, risk management of crops, livestock and claim loss adjustment on all agricultural assets, seed production, seed inspection and field demonstrations and the implementation of a conservation agricultural program for small and emergent farmers.
The impetus to choose agricultural sciences came from her community growing up where agriculture was viewed to be for the poor, old, illiterate and uncivilised women, which made the women folk to shy away from the career. This drove Sheila to venture into a career that would put her in a position to prove society wrong and to encourage females who were passionate about agriculture to come on board.
The favourite part about her work is the science and experimentation.
“I love science and experiments, so my favourite part of crop production and Research is testing production methods and transferring them to farmers; getting positive feedback from farmers is like icing on the cake.”
Sheila also gets excited about the technology advancements in agriculture that has enabled people to do many things which seemed impossible 2 decades ago. Tillage methods, planting, crop nutrition, crop protection and harvesting. This precise way of farming has enhanced efficiency and increased farm productivity.
The many changes and innovations in various Ag technologies in the agriculture sector particularly Zambia have meant there has been an increased the number of women in the sector and have been motivating factors for the youth to join the sector since they are adequately equipped with modern technology skills and can operate various smart farming systems.
Various farm management systems continue to aid farmers in making informed decisions on farm operations. Better methods of farming continue being invented for more food to feed humanity but also the financial benefits for the farmers have grown.
The impact of climate and changing weather patterns are prompting farmers to practice better farming systems that preserve the environment whilst remaining profitable. And demand has grown for cultivation tools that conserve moisture to ensure that crops do not wither in times of dry spells and poor rainfall distribution.
Given the chance to speak to under graduates Sheila would advise that apart from contributing to global food security and health, the study of agricultural science will enable one to understand the interactions between human beings, the environment they live in and will equip one with the knowledge and skills that encourage sustainable practices which do not degrade the environment just to provide food.
This career is not limited to paid jobs but also provides skills which one can use to start farming as a business. Today, it is more critical than ever to study agriculture science and Sheila’s own passion has grown over the years and if asked to choose a career again, she has no doubt in her mind that it would be in agriculture!