Selected Profile from Directory

Photo of Costain Chilala

Costain Chilala

Chairman and Managing Director of the Chimsoro Group of Agribusiness Companies

Zambia

What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?

Costain Chilala is without a doubt Zambia’s most successful black farmer.  He has launched a series of highly profitable agribusiness companies under the umbrella of the Chimsoro Group, engaging in a range of commercial farming, milling, transport and related agribusinesses, including a glass factory.  Consistently forward looking, he became the first black commercial farmer to introduce centre pivots in Zambia in 1990.  Currently, he operates over 30 centre pivots on his farms.  He is widely recognized for his highly disciplined, well organized management skills. 

As chairman of Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency, from 2002 to 2009, he insisted on strict standards of business management.  During his tenure as chairman, the FRA succeeded for the first time in attracting and repaying commercial bank loans.  Across Southern Africa, Mr. Chilala serves as a powerful role model for young Africans aiming to build successful careers in agribusiness. 

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • Agriculture is a business. Anyone who wants to do business must choose a business that he/she likes to do.  I happen to like agriculture and so I naturally chose to engage in agriculture as a business.
  • My father was a commercial farmer who grew about 750 acres of maize.  I went to a secondary school that was growing crops to feed itself.  After I stopped university studies, I was engaged as a farm manager at my father’s farm for six years, from 1975 to 1981. This early exposure to commercial agriculture inspired me to enter agriculture as a business.

 How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers? 

  • Universities and higher learning institutions need to prepare individuals to become productive members of society.  To do that, the individuals have to be fully baked in theory and in practical skills. It is no good for a university to produce a graduate who cannot even understand how a combine harvester works.  I recommend that students be given enough practical experience (maybe a semester) and ask them to write a paper on what they learnt in the field.  That should be part of the curriculum.
  • Agriculture is changing and becoming modern.  Unfortunately, some of the curricula being used now are outdated.  Agricultural training institutions need to review and revise their curricula regularly in order to respond to a changing environment.

Career highlights

  • Founder, chairman and CEO of the Chimsoro group of companies: Global Chimsoro farms (which grows maize, wheat, soy beans and cattle), Chimsoro Milling Company, Chimsoro Transport, Chimsoro Polymer (which produces grain bags) and Kapiri Mposhi Glass Factory.
  • Chairman, Zambia Food Reserve Agency, 2002 to2009

Educational background

  • Primary school:          Gari Primary School and Kanundwa Primary School.
  • Secondary school:      Namwala Secondary School.