By Josephine Mugiyo, Diplomatic Correspondent
AS government continues with the rural industrialisation agenda, the recently commissioned Mwenezi Mapfura Industrial Park where production started in January this year has brought good tidings for the local community.
Building rural economies and ensuring they contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product is key.
In Mwenezi, Rutenga the marula plant is producing wine and the key beneficiaries in terms of employment are locals.
In the extremely hot Mwenezi District, good harvests are not guaranteed due to erratic rainfall patterns.
This is a community which has seen most young people migrating to neighbouring South Africa or other parts of Zimbabwe in search of better fortunes.
However, the setting up of the Mapfura Industrial Park has brought hope to the people of Mwenezi.
The Marula tree is in abundance in this part of the country, but until recently it was just but a fruit which villagers would leave for animals to eat with some brewing the famous Mukumbi traditional beer.
The setting up of the plant has come with a paradigm shift and villagers are now aware of the real value of the Marula tree.
Growing up, Tavatarira Sibanengi remembers how his grandmother would crush the Marula seed and apply the oil on his skin.
Since the 22nd of January this year, that very same fruit which his grandmother used to crush is now the reason he has a paying job.
“As I was growing up, if we were searching for our animals at day end we knew we would find them where there Marula plantations were situated. It was also the reason to be drunk with Mukumbi. I remember my granny would crush the seed and apply the oil on my face. I never thought that this fruit would get me employed, my life has changed, imagine even those picking the fruit are getting money,” said Sibanengi.
Sibanengi’s co-worker Mr Elsinie Sibanda is equally grateful for the employment opportunities that have been created.
“I am glad to be employed here at this plant, I can now take care of my family,” she said.
Mapfura Industrial Park Manager, Ms Tendai Makore says so far so good in terms of production, adding that there is scope for increasing production.
“Currently we are supplying the local market in the southern region. We want to penetrate the foreign market with our wines and we are working with ZimTrade for quality control for the export market,” she noted.
Away from the plant, deep in Chibhakera Village, the community is excited about this new venture and they have already started reaping the benefits.
These are the very communities picking the fruit and supplying to the plant.
The ZBC News Crew caught up with Mrs Chipo Gandiwa as she headed home in her donkey drawn cart.
She was gracious enough to give the crew a ride and and talk about the Mapfura project.
“We used this for cooking, okra and also Mukumbi and we would freely give to villagers,” she said.
But now, the story is different.
“I never thought the Mapfura would lead to a company being opened here in Mwenezi,” she added.
Another villager, Mrs Agnes Mpofu is now familiar with the grading system and the quality that makes the cut for one to fetch better financial rewards from selling the plant.
Mr Chakwakuka, who is her neighbour also now holds the Mapfura tree dear to his heart.
“Now when I see Mapfura I see money. We had a lot of trees and we cut some long back but now we are planting again. Now if I see someone cutting down a Mapfura tree my spirit is troubled,” he said.
Under the Second Republic it is all about leaving no one and no place behind and using local resources to improve livelihoods.
In Mwenezi, the Mapfura fruit is gold and no longer just an ordinary fruit as the villagers are now aware of its monetary value.
Expectations are high that as time goes by the plant will expand and employ even more people.
But now one season at a time, the money is coming in.