Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Zimbabwe’s women take the lead through weaving baskets


Throughout history men have always been the breadwinners. It appears that Zimbabwe’s women are the exception to the rule. Ward 15 of Zimbabwe’s dry Lupane District has always been riddled by drought. So as to fight hunger, survive and put food on the table, women have come together and have formed a Women’s Centre. Through it they churn out baskets which have international buyers, which gives the women a small fortune, through which they can now put food on the table and at the same time, the country earns some much needed foreign exchange.

Despite being 70 years old, Grace Ngwenya has an eagle’s eye for detail. As she beautifully weaves ilala palm fronds into eco-friendly baskets, her actions are swift and methodical. Attention to details is next to creativity and neatness in her trade. Once she decides on what colour and shape she will give her basket, she works hard for 7 days until the basket is completed. Having completed it, it is carefully packed and shipped off to buyers around the world. Her efforts have earned her a small fortune - $50 a month. Here women once counted it as a blessing if they could earn a few dollars in the course of a few weeks.
This is the scenario in Ward 15 of Zimbabwe’s dry Lupane District which is located in the Matabeleland North Province. Home to approximately 90,000 people, the area is has faced frequent droughts. However, today, the rural economy is benefitting from the winds of change. With their basket weaving skills, women in the Lupane District, has put not only the district on the map but they are earning relatively decent wages as well. At the same time, their indigenous culture and skills are also being preserved.
Drought weary farmers
Lupane District has always had horror stories vis-à-vis famine. It is and has always been a farmer’s nightmare. With only 450-600mm of annual rainfall the land can only support drought-tolerant crops. Statistics from the Department of Agriculture and Extension Services indicate that Lupane has experienced heavy food deficits. Case in point, in 2008, it managed to produce a meagre 3,000 metric tons of grain against an estimated annual requirement of 13,900 metric tons. This year, again as per available government data, the yield will be less than 50% of the required 10,900 metric ton.
Those farmers whose crops failed will now be forced to purchase food from those whose crops didn’t fail, which will essentially lead to a scenario of abject scarcity, with some having money but no food at all. Zimbabwe is likely to import 700,000 tonnes of maize grain to cover its deficit, following another season of drought like scenario. Annually, Zimbabwe needs 1.8 million of maize to feed its populace.
Women are the bread earners
Lupane’s women have now taken up the twin challenge of restricting hunger and earning a livelihood by becoming the breadwinners. Hildegard Mufukare who is running the Women’s Centre in Lupane, says that by doing so women have brought “peace in the home.”
“Women have bought assets from farm implements to cattle, they have taken up agricultural activities and are working together with the men to sustain their families.”
Having a very down to earth grassroots approach, members of the Women’s Centre if Lupane, contribute $5 annually towards it operational costs. This already accounts for almost 31% of the Centre’s necessary finances. The remaining 59% comes from patrons, and donors such as Liechtenstein Development Services  (LED). However, the women want to be less reliant on other and prefer greater self-sufficiency. There are already plans afoot of opening a restaurant, farm and a conference centre which will not only provide the necessary resources but also inculcate various skills in the community.
Market for their wares are already being secured and are growing overseas, to destinations such as Australia, U.S., Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. As of 2012, their turnover had already touched $10,000. In 2014, it saw that touch $32,000. The bulk of the profit remains at the centre, while 15% goes towards government taxes and administration fees.
Having tasted success, plans are afoot to make the baskets bigger so as to accommodate the dead. Being bio-degradable, they have sustainable values even in their death.
“Working together as women has united us, and strengthened our community spirit,” says Lisina Moyo, who joined the Centre in 2012.