By Ndafadza Madanha
IN a bid to economically empower women the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank (ZWMB) has entered into a strategic partnership with Life Brand Agric Service for the production of castor bean.
About 200 women across the country with a minimum of one hectare are expected to benefit from the program through provision of seed, fertilizers and chemicals.
Speaking at the signing ceremony ZMWB chief executive Mandas Marikanda, said the move will empower the marginalized groups in society namely women, youth and the disabled as well as yield the much needed foreign currency.
“Women in Zimbabwe continue to have unequal access to finances, skills and markets in all sectors (agriculture, mining, tourism and trade). Women have limited investment and revenue potential and most of the available micro-finance opportunities and products remain unresponsive to women’s needs. This is mainly due to lack of third party guarantors leaving women with little chance to qualify for credit.
Women constitute 52% of the population, it is believed that they work ten times more than men and produce more than half of the country’s food, yet they earn only 10% of the country’s income”.
She added that the program will uplift women and draw youths into agriculture as castor bean is a high income crop.
Life Brand Agric services CEO Israel kembo said his organization was targeting to incorporate 80 -100 000 households to grow 150 000 hectares.
He said already the company had achieved 23 000 hectares of castor bean across the country and his organization was currently planting 30 hectares per week.
Kembo said the partnership with ZNWB had the potential to unlock $500 000 -1million dollars for women and economically empower them.
“The castor bean project is an economic game changer which will uplift families, proving agriculture is indeed a profitable venture. At a time that government is looking to reinvigorate the economy we are confident that the castor bean project will be one of the key ways to create fresh money into the economy and further complement export crops like tobacco among others”.
Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises development Sithembiso Nyoni applauded the partnership and said it will economically empower women in rural communities as castor bean can be harvested multiple times.
Currently global demand for Castor oil is US$1.7 trillion and commercialization of the project has potential to create over 500 000 jobs throughout the value chain and reduce the import bill for fuel, pharmaceuticals, lubricants, paints and livestock feed production which stands at US$2 billion.
The production of castor bean can earn the country up to US$7 billion in foreign exchange.