Villagers cash in as marula plant overshoots target

the herald

George Maponga in Masvingo

Communities in and around the Rutenga growth point in Mwenezi have reaped huge cash dividends from the ubiquitous marula or mapfura fruit in the arid district this year after selling a record 1,100 tonnes of the fruit which is a key raw material for a processing and enrichment plant commissioned by President Mnangagwa in October last year.

The processing plant built by the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe had an initial target of buying just 200 tonnes of fruit in its first year of operation from the rural center of Mwenezi and the nearby town of Chivi where fruits are found in abundance.

However, the supply of fruit was so high that the authority ended up buying nearly six times as much, with the best quality fetching the villagers US$5 for a 50 kg bag.

The authority has decided to buy all the fruit shipped by villagers from all parts of Mwenezi, with the company making every effort to ensure that President Mnangagwa’s dream of using locally available resources to develop the economy through added value and innovation is achieved.

The Marula-Mapfura factory was built under the impetus of the Second Republic, which placed innovation at the center of the quest for rural industrialization.

Year after year, villagers in Mwenezi have seen marula or mapfura fruit wither away or provide food for some domestic animals while a tiny fraction is used to brew homemade mumbai, which hardly benefits the communities of the region.

After purchasing all 1,100 tons in the first year of commissioning the processing plant, the future looks even brighter for the community of Mwenezi as more money will come into their pockets thanks to the sale of fruit.

The authority is optimistic about the prospects for the processing plant with an almost guaranteed supply of the main raw material at its plant in Rutenga.

The company’s managing director and registrar, Dr Dexter Savadye, confirmed yesterday that a bright future lies ahead for his company as it consolidates operations at its processing plant.

He noted that fruit deliveries had exceeded expectations.

“We had a modest target of fruit that we intended to buy during the selling season, but we closed after buying 1,100 tonnes of mapfura-marula fruit of various grades,” Dr Savadye said.

“The fruit harvest season is now over and we are very happy with the amount of fruit we have purchased.

because it also meant more money for the surrounding villagers who provided us with the fruit.

Dr Savadye said the plant’s operations would continue uninterrupted throughout the year as it operated seasonally, from season of purchase to fermentation and pulping.

“The fact that we are going to operate all year round means that there is job security for the villagers hired by the Rutenga factory. At the moment we have around 50,000 liters of mapfura-marula wine in stock which we are waiting to mature before we can pack it for market.

Priority in terms of supplying the various finished products from the Rutenga plant will be given to the local market.

“We have 30,000 units (of 330ml bottles) of marula wine that have been packaged and are ready for market and we are targeting the local market initiative as we continue our market research,” said Dr. Savadye.

The factory was also working to produce mixed fruit pulp by mixing fresh marula-mapfura pulp with aged pulp for market.

Dr Savadye said the lucrative export market was also opened up by his company which intends to export cosmetic oil made from the kernel of mapfura-marula (shomwe).

“We are currently drying mapfura-marula kernels which we are then going to crack open to get the nut inside. The nut is used in the production of cosmetic oil. We have about 300 tonnes of mapfura-marula kernels and we still need to figure out how much oil we will get, he said.

The authority always hired the best markets to sell cosmetic oil from its Rutenga factory, although the European Union and Africa are known niche markets for the oil.

In the future, the Rutenga processing plant also planned to process other fruits such as mangoes and watermelons to produce juices and other items for local consumption and export.

This will first involve the factory producing various product prototypes which will be tested in the market.

Long queues were the order of the day at the factory during the peak harvest season as villagers scrambled to deliver their fruit to the Rutenga growing point.

The plant was initially opened for two weeks for a trial in early January this year, before starting full operation to coincide with the start of the mapfura harvesting season.

Mapfura-marula are harvested from late January to late April and the fruits are abundant in Mwenezi, parts of Chivi and Chiredzi which are synonymous with an arid climate.

The factory, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe, processes and adds value to indigenous fruits to produce edible oils, juices, cosmetic oil and wines for the local market and for export, among others.

The mapfura-marula frenzy hit Rutenga with the economic fortunes of ordinary villagers seriously improved as they earned disposable income simply by picking and selling the fruit at the factory.

During the peak season, approximately 128 workers will be attached to the factory and will work in shifts.

The NBAZ-built factory in Rutenga has become the growth point’s first heavy processing industry, prompting Mwenezi Rural District Council officials to seek city status for the fledgling urban settlement near the highway. Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge.

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