The Sunday Mail
Countries that have successfully grown their exports over the last decade have taken a keen interest in developing export capacities of their communities.
They have identified areas in which their communities enjoy competitive and comparative advantage.
For example, Germany has about 500 indigenous species they have commercialised, and these have helped a number of previous niche market actors across the country to become significant industry players.
Germany’s locally produced foodstuff are now considered export growth drivers, making it one of the largest exporters.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe has over 5 000 indigenous species with huge potential for export growth if commercialised sustainably.
However, only a handful have been commercialised.
To address the challenge, President Mnangagwa’s Government has been implementing devolution to empower communities to leverage on their natural endowments as they up their contribution towards economic development.
This development approach is expected to increase the contribution of all communities to the national economy, including international trade, in line with targets of an export-led economy as espoused in the National Development Strategy 1.
Going forward, what is important is to identify low-hanging fruits for local communities.
For example, research conducted by ZimTrade — the country’s trade development and promotion organisation — revealed that all districts in Mashonaland Central can leverage on agriculture as they develop export capacities of other sectors.
Consolidation will also be a strategic move that will ensure access to export markets by all communities.
Agriculture is the major economic activity in Guruve, with most farmers producing traditional crops such as maize, tobacco, beans and cotton.
Recent research by ZimTrade showed that quick wins for the district include yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, groundnuts and sugar beans.
Most farmers in the district are already familiar with sugar bean production and could be used to develop export capacities of new exporters and smallholder farmers.
Horticultural crops such as butternuts, chillies and peas could also be earmarked for export development, particularly in solar-powered nutrition gardens that have been set up in the district.
Emerging crops such as sesame seeds, which have a ready market in the region, can also provide alternative options for farmers who are trying new export crops. It is important for farmers in Guruve to consolidate their produce, as most of the smallholder producers have no capacity to meet huge quantities often required by buyers.
Thus, consolidation will help unlock market access and make it easy for producers to raise their quality.
Apart from farming, Guruve is home to the renowned Tengenenge Arts and Crafts Centre, Mukaera Village and Mugavazi Arts Centre, which have been producing top-quality export products over the years.
The specialised stone sculptures from the centres have potential in international markets such as Europe, Asia and America.
Addressing challenges such as power shortages that often affect artists in Guruve, as well as unlocking direct market access, will help grow exports from the arts and crafts sector.
Mbire district is mainly agro-based, as the residents grow legumes and grains. They also rear cattle, goats and sheep. There are producers who have started exporting herbal tea products such as dandelion, rosella, spearmint, peppermint, gotakola and stevia from the district.
Other producers are focusing on value-added masau, baobab and dried vegetables.
These products can be used as a springboard to introduce other crops currently produced in large quantities in Mbire, where climatic conditions also favour the production of cowpeas.
Cowpeas are produced in large quantities.
Selling the produce in small branded packets, instead of bags, as well as value-addition in the form of pre-boiling, for example, will make it possible for farmers in the district to fetch relatively higher income.
Crops such as groundnuts, peanuts, sorghum and sesame are currently being produced on subsistence basis and some of them are sold in Mozambique.
However, with support to boost production, there is potential to transform the subsistence farmers into exporters.
Further, a number of development partners are assisting livestock farmers in boosting their herds of cattle and goats, and this presents opportunities in the international meat market.
Buyers in Dubai are looking for Zimbabwean suppliers of Halal-certified goat meat.
An export-focused capacity-development programme will unlock such markets for farmers in Mbire.
Mining and agriculture make up the bulk of economic activities in Bindura district.
In mining, value addition and beneficiation will ensure communities retain most of the benefits from natural resources such as copper, cobalt, nickel and gold.
In agriculture, low-hanging fruits are in the horticulture sector, with focus on crops such as butternuts, cabbages, tomatoes, peas, carrots, watermelon, green pepper, onions, sugar beans, chilli and paprika.
As most producers operate on a small scale, farmers must be organised into groups or associations where they can receive all the necessary support in terms of training and access to finance to help them produce export-oriented products.
There are also small-scale carpenters across the district, who can be linked up with players in the arts and crafts sector to produce high-end functional items for niche global markets.
This level of cooperation will unlock international markets for the arts and crafts sector, including the furniture sector.
Economic activities in Muzarabani include agriculture, mining and fishing.
Although production is still low, climatic conditions in Muzarabani favour the production of sesame seeds and sorghum, which can be developed into export products.
In terms of livestock production, goats and guinea fowls are abundant in the district, and these have an export potential that is still to be exploited.
Export-focused fishing projects can be developed, tapping into opportunities available in dams.
As the district has a sizeable population of wild animals, sustainable production of exotic leather products may provide export options for businesses in Muzarabani.
Mazowe and Mount Darwin districts
Mazowe and Mount Darwin districts are touted as having capacity to produce top-quality and tasty sweet potatoes, which can lead to the development of horticulture export clusters in the district. Other horticulture produce with export capacities that can be considered for the district include mangetout, peas, baby corn, tomatoes, cabbages, butternuts, oil seeds, garlic, turmeric and ginger.
On plantations, the district is into citrus production.
Developing the entire citrus value chain will diversify export products from the sector, which, in turn, will result in better returns.
Beverages such as fruit juices are a low-hanging fruit for the district. Other fruit trees that can be considered include mangoes.
Rushinga and Shamva districts
Farmers in Rushinga and Shamva districts are involved in the value addition of commodities they produce such as groundnuts to peanut butter, and they are selling locally.
There are opportunities in regional markets, which they can explore as they grow their capacity to reach international markets. The district has a lot of baobab and masau trees, whose fruits are normally sold to buyers from other towns.
Developing value-addition capacities for local communities will help retain the value in the two districts.
Products such as baobab oil and powder have markets in international markets, including Germany.
Potatoes are also widely grown in Rushinga and Shamva districts. Apart from selling them raw, value addition that results in snacks will improve access to export markets.
In Rushinga, there are businesses that harvest timber from trees such as mukamba, mungoriyondo and muchenarota, process it into hardwood planks, and sell these products in Harare. These products also have export potential.
With increased health consciousness, zumbani plants that are abundant in the two districts can produce healthy teas after value addition.
Packaging and branding will determine the success of the products.
Allan Majuru is ZimTrade’s chief executive officer