Zimbabwe: Bakery Pays Off for Mhangura Quartet

9 December 2019

The closure of Mhangura Copper Mines Ltd, a subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, in the late 1990s due to falling prices on the world copper market threw most families in the mining town in Mashonaland West Province into a quandary.

Most families in the mining town relied solely on the mine which was the major employer in the area.

The majority of the mine employees were men while a greater number of women stayed at home.

When the mine closed, such families were forced to look for alternative sources of income and the majority turned to urban farming.

This was the situation that Mhangura women -- Mrs Dorothy Chihwehwete, Mrs Gladys Shumbayaonda, Esmay Shekede and Flora Nyamhaka -- found themselves in until recently when the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development in conjunction with the ruling party Zanu-PF recently decided to roll out community bakery projects to empower mainly women and the youths and to counter the rise in bread prices.

The four, together with a local youth, immediately took up the initiative and formed Ebenezer Bakery about two months ago.

Over the short period of time that they have been operating, the business has grown and they are now producing 1 500 to 2 000 buns per day.

They are now the main distributors of buns in the town. This has resulted in them earning a modest income that has helped them to take care of their families.

The leader of the group Mrs Chihwehwete, who is also Zanu-PF Mhangura District chairwoman, told The Herald that the business was born out of perseverance and commitment by all the five members.

"The only thing that the group benefited from the ministry or the party was the knowledge on how to start the project.

"We started about two months ago using our own money. We injected about $12 per member and those contributions enabled us to buy 6kg of flour, 2kg of sugar, cooking oil and yeast," she said.

"After realising some profits, we increased our production levels to at least 1500 buns per day from the 50kg bag of flour we now use per day."

The bakery has since expanded beyond the town to include surrounding farms and mining settlements.

The project's secretary, Mrs Shumbayaonda said although they have made a lot of progress, they were facing a number of challenges.

"We want to diversify our product range. We want to start baking bread, but for us to do so we will require a lot of flour.

"We are appealing for assistance to buy enough flour for us to start on bread," she said.

Sarah Mafusire, who runs the financial affairs of the project, encouraged youths to take up Government's initiatives if they are to empower themselves.

"As you can see, I am the only youth in our group as the other four are old enough to be my mothers or grandmothers.

"When I went for the training workshop in Chinhoyi I was taught how to build an oven, make the butter and manage the project," she said.

"To date, I have managed to take care of my family from the proceeds that I get from the project."

"I would want to encourage youths to take up initiatives from government so as to realise some money and desist from illegal activities like illegal selling of land."

Apart from benefiting the members, the business has also won a lot of plaudits from residents.

"The ever increasing cost of living has resulted in many people failing to fend for their families," said one of the residents Major Kachingwe who had just bought some buns for his three children that are enrolled at Mhangura Mine Primary School.

Mr Kachingwe said that the bakery has brought a lot of convenience to a lot of parents like him.

"We are managing to get buns for our children on daily basis at a very reasonable price of 50c, when others are charging upwards of a $1," he said.

The success of the five has since inspired other women and youths in the area to venture into the baking business.

The women have since trained two other women and a man, who have gone on to establish their own bakeries, while a local primary school is also said in the process of building an oven.

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