Young crop scientist providing relief to farmers

The Sunday Mail

Youth Buzz
Fatima Bulla-Musakwa

Thirty-year-old crop scientist Tracy Vongai Mapfumo has won multiple awards and is capturing global attention.

The passion-driven entrepreneur is currently making a mark as an innovator, who is helping farmers make the most of drought-resistant crops.

Ms Mapfumo’s agro-food company Eny’s Treats specializes in the production of snacks that are healthy, gluten-free and nut-free. The treats include multi-flavoured seed bars.

One of her key ingredients is sesame seeds sourced from local small-scale farmers. These are processed into energy bars.

Her venture has increased demand for sesame seeds, whose cultivation does well in drought-prone areas.

Ms Mapfumo’s nutritious and unique snacks have become a favorite for health-conscious people, fitness enthusiasts and those who struggle with food allergies.

She has also played an important role in creating jobs.

With climate change adversely affecting agriculture, Ms Mapfumo’s enterprise is providing relief to farmers through an alternative route of income generation.

“I am an agriprenuer and crop scientist, who has always had a passion for food innovation. It all started when I started developing home recipes using locally grown products. I found out that there is a market for this and that’s how the business started,” she told The Sunday Mail.

Ms Mapfumo also has a burning desire to empower rural farmers, particularly those in agro-ecological regions four and five.

Having identified the challenges farmers in these regions faced to produce quality sesame seeds, she is now value-adding their produce. She plans to grow her enterprise and incorporate more farmers.

“This year, we seek to be vertically integrated with our suppliers, who are sesame seed farmers, if only we acquire machinery to clean the sesame. This would be through an outgrowers program, where we can train the farmers on post-harvest handling as well. Developing products with such crops creates a market for farmers’ produce, hence enabling them to realize income from crops adapted to their environment,” she said.

Her desire to promote marginalized communities through her expertise has earned the young entrepreneur numerous awards.

In April last year, she participated in the first cohort of Circular Economy Zimbabwe run by Impact Hub Harare.

This is a program aimed at raising awareness on circular business models, among other issues.

Recently, she was at Michigan State University in the United States under a program for young women in business.

She was also honored by the South Africa-based My Africa Child and Youth Development Organization, which focuses on the development of young people in Africa.

Similarly, she was a recipient of the Women in Agribusiness Award Best SME (small and medium enterprise), organized by Guzakuza, a Ghanaian organization.

In 2021, Eny’s Treats was contracted by the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund, under the Enhancing Community Resilience and Inclusive Market Systems consortium, to train 30 women in Mberengwa district on value addition of their natural food resources.

The women’s group managed to register a company called Mukai Pvt Ltd, which manufactures marula nut snacks. This shows how Ms Mapfumo’s initiatives are positively changing lives.

She also participated in the 2019 Youth Connect program and emerged the first runner-up.

She was also the Start-Up Business Winner in the CBZ Youth Entrepreneurs Program in the same year.

The recognition of her sterling work continued with an award from the ZBC Ndine Thaza Season 6 program.

She also participated in the Eagles Nest Program led by ZimTrade and would later be featured in The Founding 100 book by the GoGetter Movement.

The book narrates and celebrates stories of young Zimbabwean women.

Ms Mapfumo, who graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, also works as a research consultant and part-time trainer in underutilized indigenous plants that have commercial potential.

“I have always had the aspiration to see Zimbabwean food being transformed into competitive products on the market,” she said.

Named after her mother, who nurtured her entrepreneurial skills, Eny’s Treats was founded in October 2018 as a home-based business. It was then formally incorporated in 2019.

It currently has five employees.

Twitter: @BullaFatima

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