Zimbabwean fruits make cash for rural women

Like many other people who grow up in the hot and arid conditions of rural Plumtree, Annatolia Sibanda would every season compete with wildlife and livestock for the juicy marula fruits that fell to the ground.

“We are planning to buy cattle, which we will also share among ourselves.” –  Pauline Moyo.
“We are planning to buy cattle, which we will also share among ourselves.” – Pauline Moyo.

In most areas, the fruits were mainly for personal consumption or for brewing beer. Now, though, the focus is changing through a programme initiated by the African Women’s Initiative In Developing Economies (AWIDE).

AWIDE aims to empower women through knowledge exchange and skills, and also encourages the sustainable use of natural and locally available resources.

AWIDE has been at the forefront of promoting women farmers and ensuring adequate skills transfer around processing, packaging and marketing of fruit, vegetables and indigenous produce.

“AWIDE has really opened our eyes here in Plumtree. We have been given skills and resources to start our own income generating projects using our own locally available resources, which we used to look down on. For example, I am now earning a living through making and selling marula and tomato jam. I am also making money through exporting preserved and roasted marula kernels to Harare,” said Sibanda.

Sibanda said she sells a 500g bottle of marula jam for $1.50 for wholesale. Depending on the availability of ingredients, Sibanda can make up to 50 jars a day.

“My clients are mostly local shops. I used to supply one big supermarket in Harare but I have stopped because of packaging challenges. I hope to resume orders as soon as possible once the issue is sorted out,” she said.

AWIDE district coordinator for Matabeleland South, Hilda Moyo, said her organisation decided to train the women in adding value to local produce by processing and marketing it. She had seen that women and children were starving while they had untapped resources in their areas.

“We have shared skills with the women so that they can sustainably harvest their local resources for a living. Jam making and extraction of marula oil projects are sustaining a lot of families in Matopo and Plumtree districts,” said Moyo. “There’s a huge demand for marula oil in Harare, where it’s used to make skin treatments.”

In Matabeleland South, AWIDE operates in Bulilima, Mangwe, Matopos, Gwanda, Insiza and Umzingwane. The organisation also runs similar projects in Harare, Nyanga and Bulawayo.

Moyo said as a way of boosting food security in drought-prone areas, her organisation had also taught women how to preserve and package vegetables and other seasonal produce.

Pauline Moyo from the Inqhaba women’s group in Kezi district said the eight members had managed to buy goats as a result of the project.

“AWIDE provided us with the initial capital and utensils such as pots but they have since left us to do things on our own. Through income generated from the project, we managed to buy ourselves goats. We are planning to buy cattle, which we will also share among ourselves,” said Moyo.

Lucia Ncube from village 9 in Dombodema applauded AWIDE for affording her and other women in the area the opportunity to attend leadership training workshops.

“Leadership positions at every level in this area even in churches have been the preserve of men. Women are now confident and eager to take leadership roles in the community after attending AWIDE workshops. Some men have also changed their perceptions about women after attending AWIDE gender sensitive training,” said Ncube.

Post published in: Analysis

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