Thabani Nyoni (28) moved from being an unemployed youth to becoming the owner of a small scale Orange maize maputi production business based at his family homestead in Ward 12, Kwekwe District. Thabani and his wife Chiedza had been unemployed, relying on occasional sales of vegetables for their sustenance.
A cheerful and optimistic individual, Thabani however acknowledges that at some point, life was challenging. ‘2017 was not an easy year for me. I hadn’t managed to finish my teacher training studies so I couldn’t get a job…I also had a wife and young child to care for. Without a steady income, we had to be supported by my parents’.
Globally, approximately 24 percent of the working poor are young people and this dynamic is more evident in Africa, where over 70 percent of youth subsist on US$2 per day or less.
With support from Thabani’s father, the young couple started their maputi making business in December, 2017. However, their turning point was when they joined the LFSP.
Thabani and Chiedza were educated on biofortification, in particular, Vitamin A enhanced Orange maize and its nutritional benefits. Realising that orange maize could be made into maputi just as easily as white maize, Thabani was inspired to start a biofortified maputi brand. He also received extension and advisory services on how he could grow his own crop of Orange Maize. Whilst waiting for his crop to harvest, the young man networked with other LFSP farmers in the community. They supplied his fledgling business with Orange maize seed for popping into maputi.
However, one of Thabani’s biggest challenges to success was his limited business management experience. Though Thabani has always had an interest in entrepreneurship, he had never been formally trained in business management and this was evidenced when they started their maputi business.
Says Chiedza with a shake of her head, ‘at the time when we started, Thabani and I were just working for survival. We didn’t really have a plan on where we were going. The business had no records or any type of book keeping. Everything we earned we spent without a plan for the future.’
Through the LFSP, the youths received training in financial literacy and basic business management. Chiedza and Thabani were provided with guidance on how they could keep basic records, formalise their business, and save some of their income.
Currently, the couple produces 200 packs of Orange maize maputi daily which they wholesale to nearby schools and shops for $2 each. Thabani manages the production process as well as the overall management of the business. Two youths have been employed as part time packers. Chiedza is mainly responsible for marketing the maputi to local shops and school tuckshops. Though they currently use generic packaging for their maputi, they dream of launching their own uniquely packaged biofortified maputi brand. In the near future, Thabani and Chiedza intend to register their company, Hungwe Investments as the first step to expanding their business beyond their community.