Gokwe farmers set up thriving agro-processing venture

The Chronicle

Michael Magoronga, Business Correspondent
FARMERS in Gokwe have embarked on a mango drying and processing project that seeks to maximise production with a target of supplying both the local and export markets.

The project is being implemented with the assistance of development partners and is set to benefit about 100 farmers directly and more than 500 indirect players.

Products from Gokwe Farmers

A local business consortium, Agriculture Business Centre (ABC), funded by the United Nations through a Germany non-governmental organisation, Welthungerhilfe, and Empretec Zimbabwe, has since 2019 been driving the implementation process while working closely with local farmers.

ABC general manager, Mr Vernon Mushoriwa, said the project came after the realisation that the mango season was short and farmers end up throwing mangoes away after they go bad.

“We started the idea of drying the mangoes using the sun as a way of preserving them and adding value after we realised that mangoes were being thrown away in large quantities,” he said.

“We noticed that mangoes ripen at the same time and there are too many of them and the market is depressed.”

Mr Mushoriwa said the project has become a major income generator as local farmers were now able to earn a living from the project.

“During harvest time farmers earn around US$3 per 20-litre bucket of fresh mangoes because they will be in abundant supply.

“After the drying process, 100 grammes of the dried product will fetch the same amount of money,” said Mr Mushoriwa.

ABC is now in the process of setting up an equipped plant, which will see both sun-drying and electrified drying being applied so as to bolster productivity.

The project members are also working with ZimTrade, the country’s export development and promotion agency, as they seek to start exports of the dried mango.

“We are yet to start exporting but we are currently working with ZimTrade so that we can start exporting,” said Mr Mushoriwa.

“We have long-term plans to start exporting hence the construction of the drying plant as we seek to encourage entrepreneurship among youth in Gokwe and surrounding areas.

“We have already started receiving enquiries from foreign markets and we are working on satisfying them.”

The project was launched in 2019 and now has five centres in Gokwe. Once complete, the proposed plant is expected to process about 2  000kg of the product up from about 1 000kg currently being produced.

Besides mango production, ABC has also contracted more than 6 000 farmers who are producing crops such as sorghum, cowpeas, groundnuts and sunflower.

About 4 000 farmers were contracted for sunflower projects alone this season.

“We have sunflower oil pressing machines that we can use to make cooking oil. Sunflower oil is sold back in the communities at a cheaper price while sunflower cake is used for stockfeed formulation with the excess sold to other off takers,” said Mr Mushoriwa.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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