By Vikram Bharati
Christopher Zaw is sweating profusely with a high fever when I meet him at the tiny lobby of Tribe Theory Singapore. “Are you alright?” I ask him concerned. “I’m feeling much better than yesterday,” Chris replies. “For a second I thought I might have caught malaria again. It doesn’t look like it though, thank god! One of my colleagues had malaria fifteen times.”
Chris lives in Ghana, a country in West Africa. Malaria is a common thing there. It’s apparent that Chris is not from West Africa. He is originally from Australia as his Aussie accent gives away. Almost three years ago, he moved to West Africa to become a farmer. I am intrigued and want to learn more about his farming adventures in Africa.
Chris is the Managing Director of Ghana for the WARC Group, an agriculture start-up on a mission to transform rural Africa by sparking conscious economic growth. Their vision is that Africa will feed the world within our lifetime.
Chris tells me about the intricacies of the farming ecosystem in Africa. He is knowledgeable about farming in general, but especially an expert on how farming works in Africa. When he moved to Africa three years ago, he had never farmed a day in his life, nor had he been to Africa before. This is why I love meeting people like Chris. Learning about the mission of the company, he was so drawn to it, he decided he wanted to become part of it, and hence got into an industry and geography that was completely new to him.
So what are the big problems Chris and his company are trying to solve? Let’s take Sierra Leone as an example. It imports $100 million worth of rice every year. 95% of the farmers are subsistence, they do not make enough money to sustain for themselves. 32% of the Sierra Leonean children have impaired growth and development due to poor nutrition. Sierra Leone ranks 6th in the list of hungriest country in the world. The soil is exhausted due to slash and burn deforestation.
How are Chris and his company solving these problems? WARC’s innovative business model introduces modern agricultural practices, machinery, and knowledge to subsistence farmers, connecting them to markets and transforming them into commercial farmers who become key players in the farming ecosystem. At the same time, the WARC model practices regenerative agriculture including no-till conservation farming that boosts yields as well as farmers’ income, all while reducing their carbon footprint.
Before starting his journey in bringing the best of technology to rural Africa, Chris had spent seven years as a Financial Consultant in the banking industry for Ernst & Young in Australia. He has also worked all over the world, including in Australia, UK, USA, Germany, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Myanmar and Nicaragua. He has worked across industries, from business consulting, to teaching, to hospitality and now agriculture. He is now a full-on farmer in Africa on a mission to change the world.
What fascinates me about Chris is how he demonstrates that with the right mindset one can take life in various directions at any time and continuously learn new skills. My favourite thing about Tribe Theory is that I constantly meet these types of adventurous entrepreneurs who gravitate towards a higher calling in life rather than merely making a living. I wish him and his company all the success in the world.