Also known as the Zed farmer is a 34 year old Zambian farmer whose net worth is believed to be $2 million dollars.
She is the CEO/Founder: Tuzini Farms Ltd, a Zambian Agricultural Business that employs over 62 people and generates a Gross daily income of over $500 located in chisamba on the northern side of Lusaka.
Maria Zileni Zaloumi has Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Australian Catholic University in Australia. She also has a Masters of Science degree in Cardiology from Wesley hospital in Brisbane and plans on pursuing a Degree in Agronomy
The last child in a family of 3, Maria travelled to Australia in 2003 to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. While there, she worked for 12 years as a nurse and also earned herself a Master’s degree in Cardiology from Wesley hospital in Brisbane.
She started working when she was 18 and raised $30,000 start-up capital through savings.
She returned to Zambia in 2015 and met her father ill with an incurable disease called Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that affects the brain functions. He started farming on a small scale but couldn’t continue due to the condition.
Maria took over the farm in August 2016 and started with half a hectare of tomatoes; she expanded to over 13 hectares. And from the 13 hectares she harvests between 250 and 400 boxes everyday giving her approximately daily revenue of $500 (Kr5000) at the lowest price of K50 per box. Tuzini Farm produces over 300 boxes of tomatoes per day.
When she started, she used was selling her tomatoes at Soweto market in Lusaka and has grown to become the major supplier of tomatoes to Freshmark(SHOPRITE) country wide , also supplies tomatoes to Ndola’s Masala market , Kitwe’s Chisokone market, which is one of the biggest markets in Zambia and also supplies her tomatoes as far as Kasumbalesa boarder post.
Being a passionate social leader and builder, Maria gives back to her community in so many ways. On weekends, her workers enjoy the privileges of a literacy program at which many of them are taught how to read and write. She also supports kids who are under the care of the Mwachikoka Baptist church in Lusaka and she mentors 20 Youths at Kabwata Methodist Church once a month for free
Maria employs local youths who are on holidays from school at her farm to keep them busy and have them earn some money as they prepare for school resumption.
She broke records when she became the youngest to sit on the Zambia National Farmers Union Board (ZNFU), which eventually saw her becoming the youngest Director of the farmers union after she was voted into that position by the farmers.
Apart from being CEO at Tuzini Farms , she also serves as the
Young emerging farmers’ initiative ambassador,
African pride insurance Ambassador and
National Chairperson for Fruit and Vegetables under ZNFU.
The projects she runs:
She won a grant for a greenhouse from MRI seed and has now expanded to build more green houses for the onion, cabbage, tomato seedlings.
She has 4 green houses for onion
She has a pilot project for MRI seed for cabbage and seedlings
She recently launched a new variety of tomato seedling called Naetenella from Israel
When asked what are some of the major challenges she has faced as a farmer, Maria said the fluctuation in the price of tomatoes is a major challenge.
In the next 5 years, Maria she sees herself venturing into farm produce value addition by processing tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes which will be exported to the international market. She also will go into Green housing of over 50 hectares for growing organic ginger and avocados which will also be exported into the international market.
She sees herself impacting and empowering Zambian farmers by establishing an out grower scheme countrywide for export, which will boost the Zambian economy. She also sees herself reducing levels of unemployment by empowering and creating over 1000 job opportunities.
She struggles with depression and is on medication; therefore she would like to encourage someone who’s depressed, to still believe they can achieve their dreams and impact lives despite the condition.
She attributes all the glory and success which have made her the youngest commercial tomato farmer in the country in less than a year of venturing into the sector to passion, hard work and faith to GOD.
She said vividly remembers when she started in August 2016, she committed her plans to God and asked God to help her become the youngest commercial farmer in Zambia. Her focus was not on making money but making a difference in the lives of many through Agriculture.
She advices the younger generation to be realistic about their dreams and not be afraid to make mistakes, learn from them look forward ever and backward never. She also urges them to remember to be disciplined and use the resources around them and to never give up; ever.
Develop yourself by reading the right books, sharpening your skills and above all investing in your relationship with God”
Zelani does not wait for opportunities, she create them and does everything with Passion, work hard and dream big because she believes success is all about yourself and no one else.
And it is not about the amount of money you make, but the difference you make in other people’s lives.