University of Exeter graduate receives £270k for Zimbabwe farming project

By South West Farmer

A UNIVERSITY of Exeter graduate has secured more than £270,000 of funding for a regenerative agriculture project in Africa.

Hugo Winkfield, who graduated in biological sciences from the university in July 2023, took up a work placement opportunity in the Mount Darwin district of Zimbabwe.

The project inolves transforming part of Agriculture Research Trust’s (ART) farm into a centre of excellence for training. It also includes working with smallholder farmers in the Mount Darwin district, by supporting them to implement agroecological practices on land recently cleared from mines by the Halo Trust.

Hugo will lead the research component of the ART farm regenerative agriculture project. The research will help to build evidence on the value of regenerative agriculture to influence national policy in Zimbabwe.

The funding, which is from Oak Foundation, runs for two years or more.

placement – I hardly knew what a plough did,” said the 23-year-old.

“I really committed myself and I learned a huge amount about how to farm arable crops, from the top farmers and researchers in Zimbabwe. I learned that you must aim for as much as you possibly can, given even the smallest opportunity or responsibility and it usually pays off.

“Sometimes, feeling underqualified for what you are doing is normal, and likely means you are pushing yourself to achieve more than you thought you ever could.

“My degree gave me the skills to think in a rigorous scientific manner and apply the broad theory I had learned to the specific application of farming. My ecological understanding allowed me to design the cropping systems trials in a way which was beneficial for not just the local area, but on a global scale, too.

“[Zimbabwe] is an amazing country. You do have to adjust to some things – the traffic lights don’t always work, there are power cuts, potholes and occasional food shortages. But the people here are so kind, friendly, jolly, and they savour the simple things in life. The country has beautiful landscapes and is teeming with wildlife, has a rich culture, and (unofficially) the best weather in the world.”

Hugo’s research is funded by Agricultural Partnership Trust (APT) which is in collaboration with Agriculture Research Trust (ART).

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