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Gracious Hamatala

Agricultural Specialist, Barclays Bank, Lusaka Zambia


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

Gracious Hamatala is an impressively effective agribusiness professional.  He is well organized, highly disciplined and highly motivated.  He has spent his career working with smallholder farmers and finding practical ways to improve their productivity.  For many years, he led the Dunavant Yield Programme for smallholder cotton farmers.  In this role, he actively promoted conservation farming practices and very creatively developed ways to make alternative technology packages available to farmers with different resource constraints, including hand hoe farmers, animal traction and tractor drawn ripper hire schemes.  At Dunavant, he worked with over 50,000 smallholder farmers.  By helping to professionalize their farming, improve their management and treat farming as a business, he has provided both the means and the motivation for them to materially improve their productivity and living standards. 

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • I grew up on a small scale farm. From my early years, the main way of living I understood was farming.  My primary and secondary education was supported by income from agricultural activities.
  • On the farm, I was responsible for delivering and selling my grandparent’s produce to LINTCO and NAMBoard.  So I had the chance to interact with extension officers and marketing staff who were either working for the Ministry of Agriculture or LINTCO.
  • During secondary school, I took an agricultural subject.  Coupled with my experience in farming, I started identifying gaps in the farming methods my grandparents and other family members were using and I started seeking out smarter methods of farming. That experience made me realize at a tender age that there was a lot to be learnt in agriculture in order to improve the lives of rural farmers.   
  • When an opportunity came to choose a career at tertiary level, agriculture was my first option.

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

  • When I was enrolled at the University of Zambia, from the second year until I completed school, during the school recess I used to work as an intern at Lonrho Agribusiness. This gave me an upper hand in understanding real issues affecting farmers in the agricultural sector. When I completed university education, I had a guaranteed job because the employer had known his capabilities already. With that experience, I am proposing that a curriculum for High Learning Institution should be revised to include practical experiences for student and that should be mandatory.
  • Training institutions should engage with the industry and to organize industrial attachments.  For example, University of Zambia should get engaged with Institutions like Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) and have student get involved with some research projects.  That way, students will have hands on skills needed for the industry.
  • Private companies also need to propose to the universities or colleges what they would want to be included on the curriculum. That will help the learning Institutions to include relevant subjects or course on the curriculum.
  • Whilst college theories are important in challenging and developing intellectual capabilities, it is important to include the practical skills the industry will require in a graduate.  

Career highlights

  • Agricultural Specialist, Barclays Bank.
  • Head of Agriculture and Project Manager for the Yield Programme, Dunavant Cotton Company.
  • Regional Manager, Lonrho Agribusiness.

Educational background

  • Primary school:                     
    • Nambala Mission School, Mumbwa.
  • Secondary school:     
    • Serenje Secondary School.      
  • University:     
    • B.Sc. Agriculture, University of Zambia.