On the outskirts of the Zimbabwean capital Harare, Tilda Mahuni, a school dropout, forged an unlikely rags-to-riches story by growing flowers on a piece of land.
Looking back on eve of the World Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, which is being observed on Sunday, Mahuni told how due to lack of any skills and a failed marriage, back in 2011 she was left to fend for herself.
A decade later, the enterprising woman owns a fleet of five cars and several properties and also sends her two children to elite schools.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency at her farmhouse, Mahuni, 34, said that she amassed her wealth by growing and selling flowers over the past 10 years.
“I’ve done a lot of things through growing flowers. I can tell you I now own three houses in the capital Harare, all of which I have rented out to earn more income,” she said.
Recalling her long struggle, she said it was not easy to find a market for flowers.
“But I told myself giving up was not an option. I fight to survive in the business until I clinched markets even beyond the borders especially in South Africa and Botswana,” she said.
Mahuni went on to say that she earns around $12,000 monthly from the flower business besides the additional $3,000 every month from renting out her houses.
Taking a cue from her struggle, many other flower growers have also joined the business in Zimbabwe. Jimson Maungwe, 27, also made similar strides, before he became a known name in the flower business.
Even as Zimbabwe’s economy has declined, young flower growers like Mahuni and Maungwe have not only made profits but given hope to others as well.
Flower growers making a difference
According to independent economists like Gerald Gwatinyanya based in the capital Harare, small indigenous flower growers are making a difference to the country’s economy.
“While Zimbabwe faces foreign currency deficiencies, flower growers are making a difference bringing in the country the much-needed foreign currency, meaning they are breathing life into the country’s economy,” he said.
“I have just an acre of land where I am growing my flowers and for now I have so many individuals and companies coming to place orders, especially for roses. I believe I am making some progress,” said Maungwe.
Roses account for about 70% of Zimbabwe’s flower exports. Overall 350 hectares (864 acres) of land is under rose cultivation in the country.
Despite the stories of riches, the recent COVID-19 pandemic did affect the flower business as well.
“I have had to struggle to maintain the momentum in my flower business because of COVID-19 restrictions. It was not easy for customers to come and buy flowers,” Mahuni said.
Maungwe owns a big stall in the capital Harare’s main market, selling flowers to motorists and many passers-by. He said the venture has given him a big relief to keep away economic hardships faced by inhabitants of Zimbabwe.
A graduate of Harare Polytechnic College, he was running from pillar to post to find a job. Zimbabwe’s population 90% is unemployed, according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
Flower growers like Mahuni and Maungwe have shown the way, to many youngsters to start their startups rather than striving for jobs.
Denis Chivara, a retired agricultural extension officer in Zimbabwe said the white commercial farmers had originally introduced the flower business in the country.
“The thriving indigenous flower farmers learned the ropes of growing flowers from former white farmers who grew the flowers before they were evicted from their land during the year 2000 chaotic land seizure,” he said.
Young flower farmers capturing market
Now, Zimbabwe’s Black young flower farmers have captured the flower market and have become forces to reckon with.
For Percy Manduram 23, a resident of Harare’s Mufakose neighborhood, flower vending has become a profitable job for him.
“I make money here shouting out for customers, persuading them to come to buy flowers from various flower dealers who have erected their market stalls here. At least five to seven dealers hire me each day to advertise for them and I make some good $10-$20 every day,” he said.
Two decades ago, Zimbabwean flower exports were the second-largest in Africa, only behind Kenya. It was also the fifth biggest exporter to the European Union.
The flower growers and exporters were represented by a body protecting their interests, called EFGAZ (Export Flower Growers Association of Zimbabwe).
“Most of us just choose to do business without membership to these organizations because we try to avoid incurring extra costs of paying membership fees because we are still growing,” said Maungwe.
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