Like many farmers around him, Rex Natala didn’t know what it was like to farm without the use of harmful chemicals. But a training programme opened his eyes and today he’s a top organic strawberry producer in Zambia

Having the big responsibility of taking over the farm following the passing of his father, 33-year-old Rex Natala from Zambia started crafting his new chapter of life by working the land.

Now, Natala stands as the youngest leader farmer within the Solidaridad Network’s international NGO. But his accomplishments do not stop there. He has also become the sole supplier of organically grown strawberries for a major supermarket chain in Zambia, a testament to his agricultural expertise and relentless dedication.

An article published on Food For Afrika, tells of Natala’s farming journey which began in 2010 when he assumed responsibility for his family’s 200-hectare farm while his brothers chose different career paths. He, alongside his mother, embraced the challenge and learned the art of farming.

His partnership with the Solidaridad Network in 2018 was a turning point. Natala was exposed to a world of sustainable farming practices at the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in Zambia.

“They took us to Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, where I started learning about organic agriculture and growing produce without the use of synthetic chemicals. That’s when I started producing strawberries more organically.

“When Solidaridad said ‘you are going to start doing sustainable agriculture’, for me it was something very hard because people don’t really believe that you can grow any crops without the use of synthetic chemicals,” Natala said.

Natala’s journey also saw him become a part of a selected cohort of 20 lead farmers trained in food safety, a programme designed by Solidaridad and other stakeholders to bolster standards and practices in Zambia.

This training has allowed him to understand and mitigate contamination risks and isolate chemicals and fertilisers from produce.

He has also been advocating for improved personal protection and hygiene for labourers and practising careful record-keeping and labelling for improved food traceability. Natala is eager to share this knowledge with his group of follower farmers.

But success didn’t come easy. Natala admits that being a young leader farmer demands hard work. He benefits greatly from his interactions with other farmers, learning from their operations and businesses. His reputation as a consistent supplier of high-quality produce is gaining recognition, attracting orders and advice-seeking farmers from nearby towns.

Community relations are also a crucial factor for Natala. He believes that maintaining good relationships with neighbours can protect the farm and its produce from potential harm, making it an integral part of his success.