MORE than 30 000 households in the Mwenezi rural hinterland are on the cusp of socio-economic transformation as the multi-million dollar Marula/Mapfura Processing Plant has started buying the fruits (the raw material for the juice) at US$5 per 50kg.
The plant is part of the country’s industrialisation agenda, which is premised on innovation in the exploitation of locally available resources to grow the economy in line with President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030 to transform Zimbabwe into an upper- middle-class economy.
The mapfura/marula fruit is ubiquitous in most parts of semi-arid rural Mwenezi and neighbouring Mberengwa districts. The setting up of the processing plant by the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe (NBAZ) was hailed as a stepping stone in ensuring communities accrue tangible economic benefits from the fruit.
The factory can produce 75 000 litres of concentrated Mapfura juice per month and would get its key raw material from the Mwenezi community at an agreed price during the peak season from the end of January to April when the fruit would be in abundance.
NBAZ started purchasing the fruit from villagers over a week ago, with some making rich pickings.
Villagers were raking in up to US$5 or R75 or equivalent in local currency at the auction rate for a 50kg bag of high-quality marula/mapfura fruit.
In interviews with The Herald, villagers said the plant was a boon for them especially as it comes just a few days before schools reopen as that will enable them to meet school fees and other requirements such as uniforms.
Chief Chitanga, Mr Feleni Chauke, said the whole of Mwenezi was grateful to President Mnangagwa’s Government for coming up with the Mapfura/Marula Processing Plant.
“We are more than happy that at last, we have something tangible that will come from the mapfura fruit that is abundant here and has been wasting away for decades because we had nothing to use the fruit for. We must thank the Government for what they have done.”
During a tour of the plant yesterday, NBAZ chief executive and registrar, Dr Dexter Savadye said: “Yes, we are buying the fruit and the price depends on the quality of the fruit. We have been paying up to US$5 or R75, which is the maximum for a 50kg bag of high-quality fruit.”
According to Dr Savadye, testing of the plant entails the inspection of storage facilities to ensure everything was in place when it starts operating at full capacity.
The marula concentrates can be used to make juices and edible oils among other products.
“Testing of the plant is currently in progress and we will scale up purchasing of the fruit when the operational parameters have been set.”
This development has sparked excitement in the Rutenga community, which is expecting to accrue massive economic benefits from the plant.
Mwenezi Rural District Council chief executive officer, Mr Albert Chivanga, was ecstatic saying Rutenga is on the cusp of socio-economic transformation.
“Our people are very happy, there is excitement within the community over the Marula/Mapfura Processing Plant. Now we hear they have started buying the fruits from villagers to test the plant.”
Mr Chivanga said besides boosting income for over 30 000 households, the plant will put Rutenga on the map while also attracting other investments to the sprawling urban settlement.
According to Mr Chivanga, full production at the plant means more jobs directly and indirectly for the local communities, a feat he said would speed up the growth point’s industrialisation.
It is not only Mwenezi villagers who are set to benefit from rural industrialisation as in Mutoko, the US$1 million fruit and vegetable processing plant commissioned by President Mnangagwa last year is set to contribute in terms of value addition of the crop for the local community.
The plant, located at Tabudirira Vocational Training Centre, will soon be operating at full throttle once a heavy-duty industrial transformer has been installed.
A local villager, Mrs Rose Jinga, remains hopeful of saving transport and accommodation costs when the plant starts operating.
“In a case where one has to pay up to US$30 for transporting produce to Mbare Musika, at least US$5 will now suffice,” she said.
Another villager, Mr Arnold Chiripanyanga, said the plant will also eradicate the hassles of being targeted by thieves in Mbare.
“Sometimes we would lose our valuables as we travelled at night to supply our fresh produce, but the opening of the plant is a blessing to us. Farmers can transact their business during the day comfortably,” he said. Herald.