TENDAI BHEBE IN BULAWAYO
The Beef and Leather Value Chain (BLVC) Technical Assistance Project in Bulawayo and Matabeleland Provinces is reeling after it failed to distribute machinery due to the Covid-19 lockdown measures, Business Times can report.
The BLVC project, which was established in 2017 and has projects in seven districts of Matabeleland North and Bulawayo Province, is implemented by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and is bankrolled by the African Development Bank to the tune of US$2m.
But, the National Leather Working Group chairperson, Jacob Nyathi, told Business Times that the organisation has failed to distribute machines to various centres for members to manufacture their products owing to the continued lockdown.
BLVC has also failed to train its members due to the impact of the deadly virus.
“In 2019 we had ruled out training of groups in the leather sub sector that were going to be recipients of machinery,” Nyati told Business Times.
He added: “We then carried out the training from November 2019 to February 2020. And in March 2020 Covid-19 set in again when we had already put in place facilities to acquire the machines for handing over to the recipients.
The training machines were bought for US$43 000 and launched by Industry minister Sekai Nzenza. There were 40 machines. All the seven districts in Matabeleland North got one each and one for Bulawayo. The groups in Bubi and Lupane also got one each.
“However, because of the continued lockdown and other restrictions, we were unable to distribute these machines on time. We only managed to distribute the machines about two weeks ago to all the deserving districts,” Nyathi said.
“Obviously, it has not been an easy task to distribute the machines because in some cases because of restrictions we have had to limit our numbers to the best minimum.
“I recall that in Binga centre we only had 10 people to come and receive the machines that means including the district development coordinator, a representative of Rural District Council and a representative from the recipients even though we had trained about 26 recipients we were only able to invite a few to witness this momentous occasion,” he said, adding the same challenge was also experienced in Hwange.
Now that the machines have been distributed, they have not been assembled because they require a specialist technician to assemble. We are currently in the process of trying to organise a qualified technician to go and assemble these machines. Again because of Covid-19 restrictions arranging for someone to go to Binga, Hwange district to assemble the machines, it’s a process that takes time and we have to be careful that we are not part and parcel of those spreading Covid-19 so it has really negatively impacted.”
Nyathi said the start of the actual production by these new entities or clusters has been severely delayed.
He has appealed to the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises, to facilitate training for its members.
He said the organisation was also negotiating with another partner who will fund a website so that the manufacturers would showcase their products digitally.
He said the setup of these groups with some of them in typical rural areas, most participates were having challenges on marketing their projects in city centres,
“The other aspect is that the training that was carried was only for three weeks and in three weeks you cannot produce a fully-fledged manufacturer. So our approach was that these rural clusters would then come to Bulawayo for further training to strengthen their skills and also have the soft skills training part because it’s not only the technical skills that will make experienced and useful manufacturers. You need the soft skills as well.
“We had hoped that by July 2020 we should have started operations but here we are in 2021 we are still struggling to set up the machines for the guys to use.
And obviously the other problem will be the marketing aspect.
Some of these groups have been set up in rural areas. So marketing issues will become a challenge because we had hoped that we were going to be the link between these outline manufacturers and a major cluster that is based in Bulawayo that will be taking some of their products and marketing in the city centres or even linking them with the regional markets but with the current situation it’s going to be difficult,” he said.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga officially launched the Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy (2021-2030) in Bulawayo encouraging players in the industry to increase volumes of shoes manufactured in the country.