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Organic farmers in Zimbabwe
As natural resources are being depleted at a rapid rate and climate change is looming on the horizon, while millions of people continue to live in situations of food insecurity including undernutrition and malnutrition, we are committed to ensuring that SME development takes place in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner. We are particularly active in a variety of sectors relevant for promoting food security, which has already been a key priority in our past activites and will continue to be a key theme for our activities in the future.
Patience Magodo runs a social enterprise for profit in Zimbabwe. Her business processes seed, cereal products and dried fruit. The products which it processes are organically cultivated and supplied by local small farms. And while these products are currently sold only locally, we interviewed Patience while she was on a trip to Europe, examining the possibilities of expanding her firm’s sales market. She had just returned from promoting her business products at a trade fair in Antalya, Turkey.
The proprietress was originally a corporate banker, having served the small and medium-sized business community for around twelve years. So, what prompted her decision to set up her own business? Patience Magodo: “While Zimbabwe used to be Africa granary, the situation there is pretty difficult at the moment, particularly for small farmers. I therefore decided to set up as an intermediary, assisting them in selling their produce. Our land is highly fertile and our produce of superior quality. Furthermore, the majority of Zimbabweans are well-educated. If we become more organised, then we will be better equipped to export to a global market. I am keen to do something about poverty in my country, while also pursuing food security and ensuring the people’s lives improve on all fronts.”
Patience’s enthusiasm did not simply come out of the blue. As an active member of the church, she previously witnessed how convicts’ lives changed for the better when they were assigned to carry out minor projects. She considers poverty and famine the two greatest threats to the world. She has witnessed how a great deal of food is wasted throughout Africa due to inadequate harvesting techniques, diseases or simply poor quality. “A considerable portion of the food that people eat is not really nutritious, and only two percent of the world’s crops are organically grown,” she added.
First PUM client
Patience was put in touch with PUM by the Netherlands Embassy in Harare, which actively promotes all sorts of social programmes. Although local representatives had yet to be appointed at that stage, her requested prompted further action. PUM began operating in Zimbabwe just a month later, and Patience became its first client there! Founded in 2011, her firm currently employs fifteen people. And she is eager to expand the workforce to one hundred within the next decade. There are certainly no plans to become any larger than that, however. The firm is already turning a modest profit. This is not the main objective, though, as Patience does not want to become dependent on external funding.
Experts Mees Struijs and Kees van Beem travelled to Zimbabwe in order to advise Patience and her firm. The initial question posed was how they might produce granola with a shelf life of one year, thus enabling the firm to export it to Japan.
The entire food chain
Kees van Beem, a food technologist who graduated at Wageningen University, describes Patience as follows: “An extremely energetic lady, with quite considerable capabilities and power. The only thing she was actually missing were the production facilities. Her firm provides information to local farmers, while also growing produce in greenhouses on its own grounds. Although it had already managed to purchase a brand new oven, everything had yet to be connected. This was carried out during my mission.” Kees examined the entire production chain from start to finish, and studies the possibilities of prolonging the shelf life of the processed product. “In addition to granola, the firm produces dried fruit, such as mangoes. Vast amounts tend to get thrown away, because there is a glut at harvest time. I nevertheless saw a local drying plant which was solar powered.”
Given that the initial mission ran for just two weeks, Kees van Beem was able to issue general advice only. He nevertheless described a blueprint – consisting of setting up, charting and organising the supply chain – for the follow-up: “We are talking about advising the farmers on how to cultivate, harvest, clean and pack their produce, in either in bulk or consumer packaging. And then it also has to be supplied to the consumer, as the factory can only process a certain capacity. That means you are looking at both the local market and over exportation.”
The proprietress and PUM have jointly committed to a multi-year plan, designed to raise her firm to a higher plane
Mees Struijs is also a food technologist, who was actually in the same year at university as Kees. The latter also got him involved in this project. Mees explains: “I concentrated on the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) system. We jointly commenced by drawing up an inventory of all the risks and listing the procedures involved in the production process. The underlying purpose is to vouch for the food safety of the products. This is a complex matter, however, as it comprises mixing, drying, roasting, etc. They are currently working out these procedures themselves, as this is their field after all. I provide support from the Netherlands on an almost daily basis, but have noticed that they are highly passionate. Everyone there is unbelievably eager to get ahead.”
As a work in progress, Mees and Kees’ missions are part of the project plan drawn up for Patience Magodo’s social enterprise. The proprietress and PUM have jointly committed to a multi-year plan, designed to raise her firm to a higher plane. The corresponding project plan lists both the objectives and the steps that are to be taken with a view to achieving them.