Women turn grass into success story

Scores of women in the city’s two oldest suburbs of Mambo and Ascot have turned the gathering of long dry grass from surrounding forests into a success story. They started a thriving project where they process grass and then sell it to property developers as roofing thatch.

Shuvai Muzenda
Shuvai Muzenda

The business started by financially vulnerable women – mainly widows, single mothers, divorcees and the aged – has now grown into a source of livelihood for over 65 families.

The Zimbabwean visited the area, opposite the entrance to Ascot Stadium, and found a hive of activity. Businessmen from as far as Beit Bridge, Chivhu, Bulawayo, Ngundu and Gwanda were flocking to purchase and load the processed grass on to trucks. They use the grass to refurbish lodges, restaurants and hotel resorts


The rushed cash transactions were similar to those we used to observe on street corners during the dollar era, when illegal foreign currency dealers were mobbed by people wishing to exchange the local currency for the SA Rand.

Thatched roofing is the obvious choice for lodges, hotels and restaurants because it acts as an insulator. Layers of the thatch roof bring the desired coolness to any structure. Previously only used by builders in developing countries, thatch has become fashionable in some developed countries and is now the choice of the affluent who desire a rustic look and ecologically friendly roofing.

The women involved in the project have made a breakthrough and are now earning a decent living. On a good day each woman earns $300.

“We were all driven by poverty and a background of suffering. Life was unbearable and we lacked basics like food on the table for ourselves and our families. However, now it’s a different story, our lives have changed for the better,” said Hloniphani Dube, 32, one of the women involved in the project.

Major achievement

She has been involved in the project for five years and her major achievement has been to fund her daughter's education. “Before I was involved in this project, she had dropped out of school. I am a single mother and had no money. Thanks to the grass project, she is about to sit for Grade 7 exams. I am confident that I will see her go all the way to university and that she will graduate,” said Dube.

Loveness Lunga, 42, said her give children’s lifestyles were now no different from others of the middle class. “For every mother, the welfare of her children matters most. I have worked hard gathering, processing and selling dry grass. The project has transformed me from being a virtual beggar into a person living a decent life. Hunger is no longer a problem,” she said.

Anna Makechamu boasted, “The management of the three leading lodges in Gweru have thatched their roofs with grass purchased from the project, Rodrick Rutsvara from Elephant Lodge, Enos Size from his 3-star Village Lodge and the managers of Mabandla Gardens. We are doing a great job,” said Makechamu.

Rhodha Ndlovu and childeren.
Rhodha Ndlovu and childeren.

Shuvai Muzenda, 37, hopes the project will one day go international. Born in 1939, Rodha Ndlovu now relies on the proceeds from the project to provide for her numerous grandchildren.

All the women involved in the project paid tribute to Bainos Zhuwaki, 66, who sold them the idea when he re-located from Mozambique. The aged Zhuwaki urged the women to work hard and not to rest on their laurels. “I just showed them the way and I am happy they are doing fine. They all hoped to be employed by someone, but I told them the economy may take a long time to recover and so the best way was to use one's own hands and brains to make a living,” he said.

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  1. Mining Engineers

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