Makoni tea: Zimbabwe’s Rooibos?

Indigenous species has huge potential for export

Zimbabwe could make huge profits from the export of indigenous Makoni tea, says Bio-Innovation’s Chief Executive Officer, Gus Le Breton.

Marula fruit
Marula fruit

He told a recent meeting of farmers and other stakeholders, organised by the Market Linkages Association, that the Makoni plant, which grows wild in the bush, was currently underutilized.

“But if various stakeholders pull together it can be fully commercialized for the export market, just like South Africa's Rooibos Tea Council (RTC) has done with Rooibos in that country,” he said.

In a paper entitled “Zimbabwe's untapped botanical wealth, new opportunities for smallholder farmers”, le Breton focused on how to capitalise on underutilized crops.

He noted that a company producing Makoni tea in Zimbabwe was currently selling only 20 tonnes per year on the commercial market, and said there was potential to surpass this level.

"Makoni tea, if fully produced and developed, could easily become Zimbabwe's Rooibos," he said.

Rooibos, a herbal tea grown in South Africa, has been internationally marketed for its health benefits and is bringing huge profits to that country's economy.

Le Breton said the Makoni plant also had many health benefits – including a high Zinc content, which helps boost immunity. The species (Fadogia Anoylantha) is mostly found in natural regions 2 and 3 of Zimbabwe, but is widely distributed and can be found in various parts of the country.

The company currently marketing the product in Zimbabwe is reported to be undercapitalized. Le Breton said there was need for more players to support the lucrative initiative and for policy support on indigenous species.

Bio-Innovation Zimbabwe (BIZ) is a non-profit, membership-based innovation hub acting to develop new business opportunities using previously underutilised species. It aims to strengthen food security and commercial competitive advantage through the introduction of new crops.

According to Le Breton, underutilised plants are locally evolved and adapted, require little in the way of inputs, add important diversity to the food basket and are culturally familiar. Production gives competitive advantages to local producers and creates new and different local value-adding opportunities. They are also more resilient to the effects of climate change, contributing to better use and management of biodiversity.

A Senior Researcher with the Agricultural Research Council, Dr Ignatius Mharapara, says the country should focus more on safeguarding indigenous instead of exotic species to avoid loss of biodiversity.

Post published in: Agriculture

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