Dried and Delicious: Earning an income from dried vegetables in Gokwe

August 24, 2019

Mubvumbi Vegetable Garden

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from the United Nations Volunteer programme (UNV), is working in Gokwe providing communities with resources, technical assistance, skills training and financing enabling local communities to leverage local resources for sustainable income generation.

“Gokwe is an interesting district in Midlands bordering Matabeleland North and Mashonaland West. This presents the district with unique agroecological characteristics as it falls between both Natural Regions 3 and 4. Some areas receive rainfall whilst others are subject to periodic seasonal droughts. Despite the seasonal dryness, the district is known for its intensive agricultural production which includes horticulture, grains and livestock” - Shingirai

Shingirai Mthabeni, UNV

The Vegetable Market 

The production and sale of fresh vegetables is one of the main sources of income in the community of Mubvumbi.  Commonly grown vegetables such as kale would be sold at the local market for 20 – 50cents depending on demand. Several challenges were faced by the community in selling their produce:

“It was difficult selling fresh vegetables at the market as there was a lot of competition, which would push the price down. You would incur a loss selling the vegetables at a lower cost, and would only earn enough money for transport to go back home” 

-  Alec

To preserve the shelf life of her vegetables, Mrs Kazembe would attempt to dry her leafy greens at home using improvised and unhygienic drying methods. 

“I would try and dry the vegetables using makeshift drying platforms such as pieces of metal sheeting. The vegetables would sometimes go off during the drying process as there wasn’t enough sunlight”  

– Mrs Kazembe  

Harnessing Solar Energy 

In 2018 with support from UNDP, solar dryers were bought to enhance the vegetable drying process at Mubvumbi and create a more refined and valuable final product. The dryers have also helped the Mubvumbi community to reduce post-harvest losses. 

One of the vegetable solar dryers

Through training provided by UNDP and its partners, the community is now running a profitable fruit and vegetable drying enterprise. In addition to Business and Financial management training, the group has also been trained in Solar Dryer Operations; Food Handling; and Safety and Hygiene.

Vegetables being cut for drying.

Alec is one of 50 community members (43 women and 7 men) in Gokwe working with the now established Mubvumbi dried fruit and vegetable enterprise.

Ever since I began drying vegetables, I have been able to earn a higher income from sales. A 200g packet of dried vegetables is selling for $7.50.  We no longer worry about the vegetables going bad if they are not sold immediately as the dried vegetables have a longer shelf life “

– Alec 

Vegetables being prepped for placement in the solar dryer.

The dried vegetables have a larger market base with vegetables being sold in Gokwe, neighbouring towns, a local retail chain store in Kwekwe (Spar) and in the capital city - Harare.  A marketing committee has been established by the community, responsible for ensuring continued market development. 

Trading Vegetables for Fish 

Aside from providing the community members with an enhanced source of income, community members have established a barter system where 50kg of dried vegetables exchanges for 35kg of dried fish in Binga.  

Water, Health and Hygiene

Through the direct support of UNV, a solar borehole was installed at the Mubvumbi gardens and has already improved the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes of the local residents. The borehole is providing the community with water needed to maintain their crops as well as providing a clean source of drinking water for the local community.

“Since the installation of the borehole, we have seen the construction of standard toilets at the homesteads of the individuals active in the drying project”

 – Shingirai, UNV 

The work being done Gokwe is ongoing, with continued community engagement to enhance income generating opportunities and mitigate the impacts of climate change and climate variability.

Mubvumbi Vegetable Garden

The Mubvumbi Garden is part of an overall project being implemented under the Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Livelihoods (IGSL)Project and the Supporting Enhanced Climate Action for Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Development Pathway (SECA)project.  The project is funded by the UNDP and is being implemented by UNV and Government of Zimbabwe.