By Nesia Mhaka
MOPANE worm farmers from Beitbridge and Gwanda with support from the Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resources (SAFIRE) project participated at this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) and took advantage of the trade showcase to penetrate the export market.
The support was under ‘Harnessing the Mopane Worm Value Chain for Biodiversity protection, Ecosystem services and Resilient Communities’ project which is being implemented by SAFIRE with funding from USAID Zimbabwe.
This year’s trade fair held from April 26 to April 30 under the theme, ‘Re-think, Re-imagine, Re-invent, Value Chains for Economic Development’ resonated well with SAFIRE’s program which aims to change and improve livelihoods of rural farmers in Matabeleland South province through mopane worm value chain processes.
The fair, which was targeting both small and medium enterprises as well as large co-operations, presents an ideal platform for businesses to identify markets as well as discuss the structural transformation required for supply chain optimisation in the face of global business disruptors like the Covid-19 pandemic.
ZITF 2022 was a great opportunity for farmers and other business co-operatives not only because it provided an opportunity to identify potential buyers for their products, but also as a learning platform on how best they can adapt to the ever changing global business environment.
The theme for the fair was particularly emphasising on the need for businesses to be resilient and be able to craft and implement change strategies in the face of disruptions in the business environment.
This therefore, was really important and the farmers were urged to participate and learn more from their colleagues in the region.
Apart from the exhibition, the ZITF 2022 featured Business to Business (B2B) sessions, an international business conference and a business symposium where various sectors were discussing the structural transformation required for supply chain optimisation.
Showcasing and networking events are important in supporting knowledge-gathering activities.
ZITF 2022 also gave farmers access to information pertaining to business and marketing which is an essential tool in developing farmers’ abilities in maintaining and increasing productivity.
Mopane worm farmers in Matabeleland South lack access to profitable, value-added markets and in the absence of critical supporting functions such as infrastructure and service provision farmers struggle to shift from subsistence and barter trade to more productive forms of exchange, events such as ZITF thus give them some innovative business ideas.
Shifting from subsistence farming to contract farming models where buyers and farmers enter into a forward agreement for production is one way of linking small holders to value chains.
Such ‘out-grower’ models can result in improved access to technical assistance and improved business ideas, as well as a secured market and stable prices.
Interventions by SAFIRE to mopane worm farmers maximise farmers’ chances of success by ensuring constant information flows between buyers and suppliers and encouraging transparent setting of price ceilings and floors and being open to adapt and change business strategies on a commercially viable model.
Beitbridge ward 10 focal person, Mr Okelitse Dube said that he managed to acquire business and marketing knowledge from the trade fair.
“On business ideas, I learnt that as a co-operative we need to be organised first, have a vision on doing business and be attractive. On marketing ideas I learnt that prices should be reasonable and affordable to customers, branding and packaging also have to be attractive to customers too.
“Having our own stand would have given us a better way on marketing our products in terms of displaying though we had better quality products from those that I saw from other stands, items of grade and clearance, self-advertising by way of presenting our products…………..” he said.