…‘Zim rural industrialisation possible through sustainable value addition projects’
IN Zimbabwe the practice of beekeeping has been passed from generation to generation for most families in the semi-arid regions like Chaseyama village in Chimanimani West, but the trade has over the years mostly been confined to subsistence farming level, where families just sell surplus to earn a few dollars.
There is therefore a big opportunity to expand honey production and improve livelihoods, especially in rural areas. To date few beekeepers have fully successfully commercialized despite the trade fast becoming a profitable income generating activity due to the growing demand for pure honey locally and worldwide.
For 37-year old Janet Mutanda from Chaseyama, beekeeping has run in her family for generations but she never considered it a trade that she could venture in to fend for her family. This has been the case with many Zimbabwean beekeepers that manage beehives to pass time and rely on roadside marketing of honey to supplement their incomes. Farmers fail to realise the potential in the lucrative apiculture (beekeeping) business, for both the local and export markets.
The single mother of three has now taken up the family trade and sells honey by marketing it along the Mutare-Masvingo highway in Chaseyama village which is about 83 kilometers out of Mutare.
Like many villages surrounding the Chiadzwa diamond fields, the socio-economic life in Chaseyama has been suffering from low economic activity in the aftermath of the Chiadzwa diamond rush of 2007 to 2010. Locals have been finding it difficult to return to traditional sources of income after the free for all diamond rush era ended, which has seen an increase in the rate of rural to urban migration by youths in search of employment opportunities in Mutare and other cities.
Beehives are ubiquitous in the Chaseyama area but locals never thought of value addition, only limiting themselves to road side marketing of honey, in turn earning very little profits because of limited business along the highway. However, a Government led initiative is providing the locals with alternative economic opportunities. Supported by the International Labour Organization, the initiative is providing women with the skills to produce more honey, process it as well as the provision of basic skills on how to manage a business.
Mutanda is part of a group of 30 women from Chaseyama village, who have been supported to start Gen-Star Honey Farm. Through this cooperative, the women will operate a honey processing and value addition centre. Some of the products that Mutanda and her partners intend to produce include, candle wax, cough syrups, and wines among many other medicinal concoctions derived from honey.
Acting Principal Director for Youth Development in the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, Mr Elias Murinda said sustainable income generating programmes, such as the Gen-Star Honey Farm were being implemented by Government, as a demonstration of how to industrialise rural communities, as stated in the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation that is driving rural and economic empowerment initiatives to reduce rural to urban migration, mostly by youths, in search of employment opportunities in the cities. Mr Murinda said this during a recent monitoring visit of the honey processing centre under construction in Chaseyama. Stakeholders from national, provincial and district implementing committees, which comprise of representatives from various government departments participated in the tour.
Along the Mutare-Masvingo highway from Chakohwa to Nyanyadzi roadside honey vendors are a common sight. Whilst Mutanda, who is the chairperson of Gen-Star Farm, says roadside vending has its good and bad days. She welcomed the new business idea as it offers a more formalised way to trade and it will improve her income, which is what some of their highway clients have been calling for.
“Although people appreciate our pure organic honey, most complain about our packaging with concerns about hygiene and our methods of processing the honey. Potential customers say we must sell our honey in new sealed 375ml bottles, instead of the recycled containers we buy and clean ourselves. So I now see our group being able to package and brand our product in a more attractive way and even increase our productivity, as we will receive new processing equipment,” said Mutanda.
She said currently most local beekeepers were facing challenges of slow business on the roads and are often forced to sell cheap to marketers that come to hoard from them, at $2 to $2.50 per kilogram instead of $3 to $3.50 per kilogram. Mutanda said when they harvest, one beehive can produce about 20 litres of pure honey. The 20 litres bucket usually fills up 45 plastic containers of 375ml.
ILO National Project Coordinator Mr Simbarashe Sibanda said through this programme, the women in Chaseyama will be supported to produce more honey and be linked to markets to ensure they get improved incomes. Through the project, the women will get into self-employment with much better working conditions. He added that the honey sector had high growth potential, given the domestic and export demand, with high returns on investment of up to 45 per cent for bee-keepers.
In retail outlets, 375ml of pure honey costs from $5.20 to $5.90 whilst value added honey products, like honey syrup range from $2.20 to $2.50. The road side marketers in Chaseyama sell theirs for $3 whilst some on a desperate day can go for as little as $2 just to make a few cents to make earns meet.
According to a recent study, there are an estimated 15,947 beekeepers at the national level in Zimbabwe, with young men dominating the sector, about 87 per cent. The predominantly small scale beekeepers are organised in youth and women’s groups but usually produce and market as individuals.
With Government targeting to create 2.2 million jobs by 2018 under ZimAsset, value addition in the rural economy has been recognised as a key driver for employment creation. Deputy director National Employment Services under the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mrs Grace Kanyayi said the project would rebuff the stereotype of women in rural areas getting trapped in low value activities. “It was old practice for rural women to age as vendors with no meaningful growth to show for throughout their vending career years.”
She lauded the business as a high growth one that can allow the women to transform their lives. “Whether in the rural areas or in the cities, industrialisation can be achieved,” added Mrs Kanyayi.
The construction of the Chaseyama honey processing centre, which is expected to be complete by end of June will focus on low cost sustainable production through solar powered machinery, given that there is no electricity available.
Mutanda and her peers said they have big dreams. They spoke of sending their children to school and building better homes. They also want to prove to the community that if given an opportunity, women can rise to the occasion.
The honey processing centre is expected to be officially opened in July 2017.