CHATTERING monkeys and piercing persistent buzzes of cicadas break the morning silence of a mountain forest in Gutu, about 340 kilometres southern-east of Harare.
A tired looking Takunda Davirai (31) labours through the forests with a heavy load of baobab fruits on his back as he joins thousands of Zimbabweans who are now hassling to make ends meet.
For Davirai, there are benefits to making these trips to the forest to collect baobab fruits for sale in the capital city, Harare, and its dormitory town of Chitungwiza.
Davirai has never been employed in Zimbabwe, where unemployment is unofficially focast at 90%, arguably among the world’s highest rates.
Faced by the prospect of dying a pauper, he hatched a plan to gather and sell baobab fruits, after visiting his sister Harare in 2021.
In hindsight, he recollects how that plan suddenly became a game changer and the beginning of a better life for him.
Since then piles of 50kg bags of baobab fruits have become a permanent feature behind his two-roomed house at his rural homestead.
“I only got to know that baobab fruits have a ready market, especially in the urban areas, about two years ago when I visited my sister in Harare. I discovered that no one in the community has the idea of making money through selling baobab fruits,” Davirai told NewsDay with a smile.
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“Last year alone I managed to gather 68 bags of baobab fruits and took them to Mbare in Harare and Chitungwiza’s Chikwanha market. When gathering fruits I mainly target trees whose fruits are tasty in order to satisfy customers and create a good name for myself.
“I normally sell a 50kg bag for US$20 which makes it very affordable considering their size. I now have lots of orders and some of my clients want baobab fruit powder which they use in preparing porridge.
“I roast and grind baobab fruit seeds into powder which is used in making coffee and sell each satchet for US$1.”
This year, Davirai intends to gather more baobab fruits. He is alone in this business as many people in the area are yet to have knowledge of his business.
“So far I have gathered 100 bags and my target is to reach 150, which is achievable considering that I have no competitor. There are many trees which I have not gathered fruits from,” he said.
Last year, Davirai managed to achieve something that he never thought was possible without being formally employed in industries.
“Last year, I bought cows, goats, sheep and a smartphone something that I never thought possible without getting formally employed in companies.
“This year I intend to build a bigger house for my family, most probably buy a grinding mill and a scotch cart,” a beaming Davirai said.
Although Davirai has made huge strides in his business he has faced many challenges.
“There is more room to make money if I have my own transport to enable me to quickly reach the markets in Harare and Chitungwiza. The cost of transporting the baobab fruits using buses is eating into my profit because I have to fork out US$1 per bag.
“I also need more manpower to help me carry the baobab fruits from the forest, but the funds do not permit at the moment.
Davirai is among the youths who remained in the countryside as thousands of his age group risked their lives crossing the crocodile-infested Limpopo River to go to neighbouring South Africa in search for employment and better lives.
He says he could also do with a little support from the Women’s Affairs, Community, Small-to-Medium Enterprises Development ministry to access funding and connect to more local and foreign markets.
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