by Christopher Makaza
The establishment of the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank (ZWMB), the first of its kind in Southern Africa dedicated solely to transform and economically empower women and the setting up of Youth Empowerment Bank should be taken as a great opportunity which has knocked on women and youth`s doors and should be capitalised without delay.
These institutions know no politics. Any interested woman or youth can walk in and get assistance regardless of political affiliation. Some Government critics had already started politicising the development claiming only Zanu PF supporters will benefit, Let it be known that President Mnangagwa is doing this for everyone Zimbabwean regardless of race religion, colour or political affiliation.
During the launch, President Mnangagwa urged women to take advantage of the bank which is bound to economically empower and transform the lives of the majority of Zimbabwean women who have over the years been marginalised. The bank was created by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development in a bid to alleviate poverty and give women access to financial services especially those in remote areas.
Women and youths from both urban and rural areas should come up with different income generating projects and apply for capital from their respective banks. Some of the projects they can start include food drying, processing and preservation.
In many Zimbabwe`s rural households women are seasonally involved with these activities. They preserve surplus production for household consumption and for marketing when the family needs more cash. However, the regular production of a standardized product for the market is still rare and a wide of local products which could be produced are absent. Most notable of these are dried fruit, vegetables and herbs. Women should take advantage of their God given solar energy to dry vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, as well as many fruit, such as figs, grapes, apricots and peaches. The market for these is as yet poorly developed but the world market is expanding every year.
Women should also take advantage of a large market for edible and medicinal herbs which remains poorly supplied from local sources.
Production of jams, pickles, vegetable pastes, fruit juices could all increase income and women's income in particular since this would generally make use of existing skills and technology.
Small-scale milk processing enterprises could be established in villages where there is a surplus of milk. People should take advantage of the command livestock programmes introduced by Government to improve their heads. Milk processing is one area of traditional female responsibility and production of local cheese can also be done by women when they do value addition.
Women and youths can also participate in programmes like command fisheries, and other command agriculture programmes for their income generating projects.
Flowers and indoor plants production could interest villages located close to towns where there is a market for this kind of production. There is a market for high quality fruit-tree seedlings and a few women have engaged in this area. These are just a few examples of many income generating projects that women and youths can undertake to earn their living.
President Mnangagwa however implored the banks to desist from scaring away depositors with outrageous charges and unrealistic collateral security.