Forty two-year-old Everness Songore supports her family of four by selling milk at Chikwanha Shopping center in Seke district. Her day starts at 4am when she wakes up and takes 20l buckets of milk on a 10km trip to the nearest bus stop. She then travels to the market place to sell her produce.
“As a female farmer, selling sour milk is a good option for me as my husband is unemployed. I source the milk from nearby farms, which I then re-sell. The money we make is never enough but the most important thing is that we have food on our table,” she said.
The risk of contamination is high. “I am aware of the health risks associated with this business but I try to make sure that my containers are very clean. A lot of people prefer the traditional sour milk that we sell here rather than the milk sold in shops,” she said.
Employment in the informal sector is prolific countrywide. Vendors selling produce from farms at an open market is becoming more popular and is known as a communal farmer initiative. Chikwanha, Dema, Makoni, Mbare and Hwedza open markets are embracing the initiatives.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union Economist, Peter Kuipa, said the community-based initiative by these women was positive.
“This is a positive move by farmers as they are not waiting for government handouts. As long as women are engaging in food distribution they are playing an important economic role. The government can assist by providing the requisite infrastructure and equipment and also facilitating access to finance in the form of concessionary loans for the women to buy proper milk transportation equipment,” he said.
There is a need for technical training for the women who are producing the milk. Hygienic standards from farm to table are essential, according to Kuipa, and a cold chain should be maintained from the farm to the consumer.
According to the 2009 SADC Gender Monitor, 70% of informal traders are women. Most of these informal traders not only lack business skills, they also lack reliable sources of information on markets and regulations and often rely on other women traders for socio-economic support and information.
These women are transforming their lives in vulnerable farming communities to ensure improved production and food security at a price they can work with.Post published in: News