WORK on the country’s first state-of-the-art mopani worm (amacimbi) processing plant in Beitbridge is nearing completion, a Cabinet Minister has said.
In a telephone interview with Sunday News Business last Friday, Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Dr Sithembiso Nyoni said the Matshiloni Mopani Women Processing Centre was expected to start operations during the first harvest of the edible caterpillars, which usually is between November and January.
The process centre has a solar-powered borehole, solar-powered dryer for the worms, overheard reservoir tanks and a packing factory.
“Construction of the processing centre is nearing completion, only final touches are being undertaken. We are only waiting for the harvesting time to start, thereafter the processing of amacimbi will start,” said Dr Nyoni.
The African Development Bank channelled US$100 000 into the project, which is wholly owned by Rovhona Raita Co-operative with a membership of 106 people, a majority being women. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is providing the technical support for the project in which the two organisations are partnering Government. The project, which is expected to spin thousands of dollars when fully operational, is in line with ILO’s Decent Work Agenda promoting creation of opportunities for productive work.
“This is basically a wholly-owned womens’ project spearhead by a co-operative and we have since facilitated the formation of a company to make sure that it’s run professionally by directors and managers with the traditional leadership and local authority officials having a buy-in,” said Dr Nyoni.
Amacimbi are found in abundance in Matabeleland South Province especially in Gwanda, Insiza, Kezi, Mangwe, Beitbridge and Bulilima districts and are mostly collected from the wild. In Zimbabwe, amacimbi are a staple part of the diet and are considered a delicacy. They can be eaten dry, as crunchy as potato chips, or cooked and drenched in sauce and pack a serious nutritional punch, consisting 60 percent protein and high levels of iron and calcium.
“Scientific studies have proved that consumption of junk food (pre-prepared or packaged food that has low nutritional value) leads to a number of health complications. Thus, we are encouraging people to consume traditional meals such as ulude and amacimbi, which don’t have any side effects. Amacimbi are high in protein and roughage,” said Dr Nyoni.
The processing of the edible caterpillar is expected to play a huge role in empowering women through the income generated from the project.
“The centre will play a big part in improving issues do with hygiene when processing the worms because the traditional way of processing them has been more of a health hazard. Women are also expected to generate income from the project,” said Dr Nyoni.