Matabeleland South Province is usually affected by drought due to erratic rainfall.
This has prompted people in the province to resort to various means of livelihood. Some turn to gold panning while others resort to vending for survival.
Realising the need to develop their area, some villagers in Matshetshe area under Chief Mbiko Mzimuni Masuku have constructed a farm produce processing centre at Mkwidze Business Centre in Gwanda, which they have named “Matshetshe Processing Centre” with the core objective of generating income through selling processed foodstuffs.
Over 500 people drawn from across Matshetshe make up the project membership which is expected to generate income for the locals and assist the area to develop.
In an interview, the chairman of the project, Pilet Ncube, told NewsDay on Tuesday that the idea of founding the project was mooted last year in May by a number of Matshetshe villagers and supported by Dabane Trust.
Ncube said after noticing that villagers under Chief Masuku’s area had no place to process and market their agricultural produce, and also realising that they were struggling to make ends meet, they came together to form the project.
“After the villagers came up with the idea, a non-governmental organisation called Dabane Trust chipped in to assist us with the construction of the infrastructure which started in September last year,” said Ncube.
He said the construction of the project had been completed and was official opened on Wednesday July 6 by Matabeleland South governor Angeline Masuku.
Dabane Trust also donated some machines for peanut butter making, cooking oil making, chips making and meat and vegetable drying machines to the project.
Ncube said before the official commissioning of the project, the centre was already electrified, but could not be lit because they were still final touches to be made.
“We will be processing peanut butter, potato and sweet potato chips, dried meat and vegetables, other farm produce as well as wild fruits. Our market is the community and even people from outside the area,” said Ncube.
Officially opening the centre, Masuku challenged the people in Matshetshe to be united so as to develop their community. She said development would only come with hard work.
“Unless we come together and come up with projects such as this one, we will not succeed. We have to work together and hard to develop our area,” said Masuku.
Ncube said their project was currently facing challenges of financial capital.
“As a new project, we are still having financial challenges and we are yet to meet over how we can draw the resources to run the project. We still look forward to getting more financial support from well-wishers,” said Ncube.
He said members were getting training support from Dabane Trust on how to operate machinery and business management.
“Since we are in a drought-prone area, the project will enable people to generate income in order to sustain their families at the same time promoting the development of our area,” said Ncube.
Speaking at the official opening of the processing centre, a Dabane Trust official challenged the people of Matshetshe to utilise the centre.
“This processing centre will not work on its own. You people have to ensure that you make use of this great opportunity. We do not want to see this place becoming a white elephant,” she said.
The construction of the processing centre comes at a time when many villagers in Matabeleland South have failed to harvest any crops due to erratic rainfall.
The processing centre will be working with the little produce that farmers got during the last season, but it is expected to operate at full throttle when the rainfall increases in future.