Lupane women feel Covid-19 pinch

TENDAI BHEBE IN BULAWAYO

Women affiliated to the Lupane Women’s Development Trust (LWDT) in Matabeleland North Province are feeling the pinch of the adverse impact of Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown, which has dealt a heavy blow to its craft business, Business Times can report.

Hildegard Mufukare, the director of LWDT, said their prospects of raking in foreign currency through crafts exports have been dealt a heavy blow.

LWDT is one of the country’s most successful rural-based women empowerment organisations.

Apart from offering handicraft support, LWDT also offers agriculture and business management training to women and assists in marketing their products both locally and internationally.

Mufukare said they have been having difficulties in accessing intercity transport.

“The strength of our business is in working together to produce high quality baskets. This calls for groups constantly encouraging each other by meeting and also pulling the not so diligent weavers. Because of Covid-19, we lost some of our weavers and also lost a lot of business as we could not produce much as well as the non-availability of intercity transport,” Mufukare told Business Times.

She added: “Women have challenges accessing capital and also face challenges of transporting goods to the market on time. The women don’t have their own transport and rely on buses that travel from the villages at night.”

LWDT exports its craft products to countries including Australia, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Turkey, UK, Israel, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

The organisation has a membership of more than 4 500. Out of these, about 400 are weavers. The balance is into other projects such as crop farming, livestock production, gardening and poultry.

Over the past few years, LWDT had more than doubled the weavers’ income, according to Mafukare.

But, their chances of getting more international orders post Covid-19 were low.

“We were anticipating more international orders this year as our exports have been on the rise over the past few years. For instance one of our clients in Spain is already concerned and uncertain of how the markets will fare after the lockdowns and containment of the pandemic. We are, however, looking at new strategies and models of doing business both on foreign and local markets. However, weavers are continuing with their weaving at their homes, which is of course the advantage, which comes with the trade, as it is mostly done at homes,” she said.

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