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Hwange villagers put value addition to baobab fruit

21 Oct, 2021 - 00:10 0 Views
Hwange villagers put value addition to baobab fruit Ms Beatrice Ncube sorts baobab powder at the processing plant

The Chronicle

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
SEVEN Hwange villagers have set up a processing plant in Hwange District to commercialise the baobab fruit by making stockfeed, sunscreen creams, coffee and other products.

The five women and two men exhibited at this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) and Matabeleland North Agricultural Show and through the contacts they made, their business is set to grow.

The group has since attracted the attention of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) which has offered support.

Ms Rosemary Muleya, Ms Constance Liteta, Ms Beatrice Ncube, Ms Getrude Sibanda, Ms Mariya Ngwenya, Mr Edward Ndlovu and Mr King Phiri, all from Change ward, formed Mushingo Trading in 2018.

The company is based in Lukosi about 15km outside Hwange town near the Hwange Rural District Council (HRDC) offices and produces baobab freezits, oil and cream, juice, coffee and stock feed.

After exhibiting for the first time at the ZITF and Matabeleland North Agricultural Show, Mushingo Trading could break new ground as an exporter after making contacts with some external businesses.

A news crew caught up with the company owners who said the future looks bright and plans are underway to employ youths.

Despite being rooted deeply in the rural area, the company has adopted proper business models and following legal procurement and bookkeeping procedures, with each of the seven shareholders allocated a role.

Ms Muleya, who is the company’s chairperson and finance director said they have support from the FAO, HRDC, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Environmental Management Agency, Agritex, District Development Coordinator’s office and Ministry of Health and Child Care among other Government entities.

She said Mushingo Trading was born after the demise of Hwange Baobab Producers Trust (HBPT) which had 1 500 members from Nekabandama, Luseche, Makwandara and Change wards. They operate their plant four days per month on Thursdays and it will be closed the rest of the time.

HRDC gave Mushingo Trading a piece of land while FAO constructed a building where the processing plant is located.  The organisation also provided an oil pressing machine, freezit maker and two fridges among other items.

“We sat down and FAO offered to help us continue with the business after HBPT collapsed. We were 12 but others dropped out during the lockdown,” said Ms Muleya.

Scores of villagers mostly from Chimbala and Nekabandama earn a living by gathering the fruits and supplying the company.

Mr Muleya said a 10kg bag of baobab fruit costs US$5 and they usually buy a tonne for about US$600, which m-akes 40 litres of oil, three by 50kg bags of powder and 22 by 40kg bags of seed residue.

HRDC sometimes supports the company with transport to carry bags of baobab fruits to the processing plant.

“We sometimes hire a vehicle when the council’s car is not available. The fruit is opened and the machine separates seed and powder. We take the seeds into the oil presser to make different kinds of oils including sunscreen creams used by people with albinism while the powder makes freezits and juices. We also make coffee from the seeds while the scum makes stock feed which we sell to farmers especially in Matetsi where they use it to feed elephants.

“The baobab products have a lot of uses. They have a medicinal function to treat wounds, ringworms, rash and also ears. The juices also prevent hypertension and diabetes as well as naturally cleansing the body especially for men,” she said.

The machine can make 300 freezits in 30 minutes and 10 000 per day, but Ms Muleya said they operate it for an hour only in a day because the market is still small.

The company also has capacity to produce six by 80 litres of oil per day.

“We are beginning to get more inquiries after making contacts at ZITF and Matabeleland North Agricultural Show. We anticipate to expand as we get more business in future and we want to start employing youths to operate the machines since we are growing old and we need young blood for continuity,” said Ms Muleya.

One of the major challenges they face is the exchange rate because they buy ingredients in foreign currency but sell their products mostly in RTGS.

The company buys sweeteners, bicarbonate products, containers and branding labels from Bulawayo using foreign currency.

They sell 20 freezits for US$1 to those who buy for resale and US$30 for a 5-litres of oil which is bought by those who make different kinds of soaps and face powder.

Ms Liteta who is the company secretary and procurement director said the business has transformed livelihoods.

“Our lives have significantly changed since 2018 as we are now able to take care of our families and send children to school. We are getting a lot of inquiries from potential customers while some contacts we made at the ZITF are helping us to prepare to export our products,” she said.

Change Ward Councillor Ishmael Kwidini said the company needs financial help to expand and serve a bigger market.

The baobab tree has become an important source of enhanced livelihoods in Zimbabwe and communities living in areas where it is found are now using it as a source of income as well as for medicinal purposes.

Baobab products have nutritional advantages as its fruit has lots of vitamin C, calcium and magnesium while the leaves are also eaten and the fibre from the bark is used to weave mats, bags, and hats. —@ncubeleon

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