From cardiology to tomato grower: An accidental farmer in Zambia

"A labour of love": Zambia's accidental tomato farmer 

Maria Zaloumis went from being a specialised nurse in Australia to a very successful tomato farmer in her native Zambia. She now employs more than 70 people from local communities enabling them to send their kids to school.

Four years ago Maria Zaloumis quit her job as a cardiology nurse in Australia, to attend to her ailing father in her native African country of Zambia. 

Today Zaloumis, 34, is one of the country's leading tomato farmers. 

She had been living and practising as a specialised nurse in Australia for 12 years, but in 2015, she resigned and flew back home to help care for her lawyer father who was battling amnesia. 

Armed with a highly specialised qualification and experience, she was confident she would easily find a job in Zambia while also looking after her father at home. 

But it was not to be, because she was apparently overqualified. 

For six months she went without an income and one day she decided to have a go at running the family farm since her father was by then incapacitated. 

She has never looked back and does not regret the accidental career switch. 

"In September of 2016 I took up the running of the farm and now I don't like formal jobs anymore," Zaloumis said. 

Tuzini farm, located 25km north of Lusaka, produces an average of 72 tonnes of tomatoes a month and supplies beyond just the capital city Lusaka. 

"Our market for tomatoes is big and people from other provinces come to buy from us." 

In less than three years of farming Zaloumis has made a mark in her country where she has earned the moniker "the Zed Farmer". 

For Zaloumis, farming has become a labour of love. 

"I like to help the less privileged...helping people who haven't been to school giving them jobs, reducing poverty and then giving them a future." 

She now employs 70 workers. 

Zambia is in the throes of a drought which has affected the 2018/19 farming season and around 2.5 million people are facing food shortages, according to official figures.

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