Sweet story of a woman who dared to dream

21 Nov, 2021 - 00:11 0 Views
Sweet story of a woman who dared to dream

The Sunday Mail

Enacy Mapakame

From the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, comes a sweet story of determination, passion and perseverance, a story that puts the Maungwe people of Rusape on the global map, reaching as far as Hong Kong.

This is the story of Ms Jacqui Gowe, founder and director of Sweet Maungwe, a brand of honey products which started in 2012 at a local farm in Rusape.

The budding company, which started off with honey production has now grown to a wide range of products such as wine, bees wax, candles, lip balm, body butter, soap, hair products and furniture polish among others following value addition initiatives while Ms Gowe has become a business leader to reckon with both locally and beyond borders.

She now heads a local women’s organisation on livestock, the Zimbabwe Apiculture Platform and is an executive member of the bee project of the African Union (AU), which has created networks at local and continental level.

But this did not come on a silver platter for Ms Gowe, who had to abandon her health profession in the United Kingdom where she also studied, to take care of her ailing mother, and ventured into a totally different sector.

“This was out of pure passion,” she said in an interview.

“When I came back to Zimbabwe I could not be employed because I specialised in liver transplant. And my late father left a farm and we did not know what to do with it until my uncle sold the idea of bee keeping. This is how it started, he mentored me and the passion grew each day. So I put beehives by the farm and honey started flowing in 2012.”

Since then, Ms Gowe has never looked back or regretted her new career path, which has also grown to incorporate training in apiculture for aspiring farmers since 2017. The company produces 6,5 tonnes in overall volumes annually and is targeting to increase to 10 metric tonnes.

“I decided to name the company Sweet Maungwe in honour of my uncle who is now late and the people of Maungwe in Rusape. Naturally, the people of Maungwe love sweet things and I decided to put them on the map by naming my company Sweet Maungwe.

“Honey in particular is a much sought after product world over and there is a huge gap that we as Zimbabweans can bridge. Now with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), there is a huge opportunity to tap into this with honey and honey by-products,” she said.

She, however, emphasised the need to think outside the box, consistency, learn, perseverance and investing into research. These, she said, will help one come up with a unique product and service.

To date, Sweet Maungwe’s product range is now available on their online store for orders from across the country, now includes wines — the Sweet Maungwe Mead with production currently at 50 bottles a month. The company is now looking at export markets, although some products have already been exported to Hong Kong.

The Sweet Maungwe Honey brand comprises honey varieties blended with ginger, mixed nuts, cinnamon, plain honey as well as honey with honeycomb itself.

“It is important to take time to learn, invest in research. This is one of the challenges with not only Zimbabwean women, but across the region. There are no shortcuts.

“Appreciate that Rome was not built in one day, so take time to perfect what you are doing and you will come up with a beautiful and unique product.

‘‘Learn from others and create networks,” she said.

Ms Gowe herself has taken the Sweet Maungwe brand to both local and regional exhibitions where she networked with peers from Ethiopia, South Africa and Slovenia among others.

This helps in sharpening business skills, marketing, packaging products, sourcing funding as well as gain knowledge in pests and disease control.

As demand for honey continues to increase as a substitute for other sugars, Ms Gowe is also looking at apitherapy, which is a type of alternative therapy that uses products that come directly from honeybees.

It is used to treat illnesses and their symptoms as well as pain from acute and chronic injuries. Illnesses that apitherapy may treat include multiple sclerosis.

She said: “I want to go to Slovenia to study this and get a better appreciation.”

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