George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
The Mwenezi community in Masvingo has paid glowing tribute to President Mnangagwa and his Government for establishing the Marula/Mapfura Processing and Value-Addition Factory at Rutenga, which they say is a landmark and game-changing investment that has put the rural area on the cusp of industrialisation.
President Mnangagwa on Monday commissioned the $50 million plant that will rake in nearly $400 million seasonally from marula/mapfura processing and value addition.
The plant is the first industry at Rutenga, a sprawling urban settlement and the major trading centre in Mwenezi district which is angling for town status.
More than 100 direct jobs will be created at the plant, while over 30 000 households across rural Mwenezi will be indirectly employed through supplying mapfura fruit during the peak season for the fruit that runs from end of January to April.
Products from the plant such as juices, edible oils and stock feeds will be sold both locally and internationally, putting Mwenezi on the map.
Rutenga also expects a boom in investment with other service providers and downstream industries expected to flock to the growth point.
However, it is the lives of ordinary villagers across Mwenezi that would be transformed by the project.
Mrs Maria Moyo, who resides at the Growth Point, says the processing plant will change the face of Rutenga.
“We are very happy with what Government has done by opening this plant to process mapfura because the fruit was wasting away, yet it could be properly harvested and commercialised while boosting incomes of villagers who pick the fruit and supply the plant,” she said.
Businessman Mr Natural Tapfumaneyi was upbeat the marula plant would lure more investment to Rutenga.
“This project is a game-changer because it will not only create direct jobs, but also see Rutenga getting more investment, resulting in the emergence of a vibrant industry around mapfura,” he said.
“Products from the plant will not only feed the local market, but also exported, putting Rutenga and the entire Mwenezi on the map.”
Mwenezi Rural District Council chief executive Mr Albert Chivanga said the investment will spur socio-economic transformation across the largely rural district.
“This is rural industrialisation that has kicked off with Rutenga at the forefront,” he said.
“We have the country’s only and first processing plant for marula and this is good in terms of our growth prospects, especially considering that Rutenga is eyeing town status.
“The plant will create direct and indirect jobs. Poverty levels will be reduced as villagers will benefit from this resource.”
Chief Chitanga, born Mr Feleni Chauke, hailed the plant, saying Mwenezi had been waiting for the investment for many years.
He paid tribute to the Second Republic for spearheading rural industrialisation which will tame rural to urban migration.
“We want to thank the Second Republic for conceiving the idea and actually building the mapfura processing plant because it will change the lives of our people,” said Chief Chitanga.
“The plant will stem unemployment and our children will no longer have to move to bigger cities enmasse because they can easily get employment. The mapfura fruit was wasting away while people struggled to make a living, but their livelihoods will now change for the better with the coming of this plant as they will sell their mapfura.”
Chief Chitanga also noted that previously, youths in Mwenezi were risking life and limb to cross the crocodile-infested Limpopo River in search of menial jobs in neighbouring South Africa.
However, the gradual industrialisation of Rutenga will stem the tide.
Mwenezi District Development Coordinator Ms Rosemary Chingwe said the project would transform livelihoods in line with Vision 2030.
She pointed out that mapfura was a natural resource found abundantly in Mwenezi.
“The plant will change the lives of people in Mwenezi because what our people now have to do is to pick the fruit and sell it and get money to pay school fees and sustain their families,” said Ms Chingwe.
“In terms of employment, the plant will also make a huge impact because three shifts of workers will take turns to work in the plant per day and there are many other benefits that will accrue to the people of Mwenezi.”
Besides fitting within the framework of Government’s rural industrialisation agenda, the processing plant at Rutenga was established through harnessing innovation and science by locals who used locally available resources.
Plans are afoot to replicate the mapfura plant across all areas where the raw material is in abundance.