Group leader Roselyn Chipunza says that the group was forced to re-evaluate their rural roots and concentrate on community based agriculture due to the collapse of the economy due to massive inflation in 2007 and economic problems that resulted from that.
Since then, life has become a lot sweeter for eight rural women who decided to grow organic pineapples as a business. “We were in a deep crisis. The state of the economy drove us to experiment and we found pineapple farming to be our solution,” said Chipunza.
Since receiving funds and support from UNDP and with help from the Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO), the ‘ pineapple experiment’ has indeed become key to poverty relief in Chikukwa village.
Over the years, the group’s pineapple production has been transformed through the introduction of strategies for economic and environmentally responsible production.
“Pineapples have changed our lives. Besides the local market, export markets have increased. Currently 1 kg of pineapples sells for about $12 on the export market. We get double that price on the local market. For pulped pineapple, the price quadruples,” explained Chipunza.
The group sells pineapples to local individuals and at various markets in Mutare and Harare. “We have customers who make bulk purchases from us, including buyers from South Africa and Mozambique. At the moment the market is good,” she added.
The lives of women in the group have been transformed. “We are now all able to look after ourselves. Our life styles have changed since we receive an income to sustain our lives,” said Vaida Muza, one of the members.
“Besides now having a bank and a savings account, I have managed to extend my house and upgrade my homestead. I am now able to pay school fees. A homestead is incomplete without a goat and I now have 24 goats. I am looking forward to saving more money and to starting other income generating projects,” Muza added.
Another member, Nyaradzai Kachere, said “Due to the success of the project I now have a monthly income that is keeping me and my family going. I am even able to send my son to university. We have wonderful harvests and turnover is good.”
Goats eat pulp
Kachere said the pineapple dollars have also allowed her to diversify into livestock breeding. “I feed my goats pineapple pulp, and use the manure to fertilise the pineapples in line with organic principles, which prohibit the use of chemical fertilisers. Pineapples as a cover crop also keep the soil from eroding.”
Chipunza said the group was planning to buy more land to expand the pineapple project from 20,000 to 50,000 plants. “We are also looking at diversifying, so that we do not rely solely on pineapples,” she said.
Because pineapples are perishable the group is looking at means of adding value to gain more from the produce. “We are looking at setting up a wine and juice processing plant and are in the process of negotiating with donors and partners who would assist us with machinery,” said Chipunza. To kick-start the project they are looking at three solar dryers, a blender and a pulp machine that extracts juice. “Fortunately, I have already received training on how to process and package pineapple juice and wine,” she said.Post published in: Agriculture