Creating value within Zimbabwe’s tomato industry

Australia Awards Alumna, Susan Sithole is currently a Market Linkage Officer at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), in Zimbabwe. She uses the skills and knowledge that she gained during her Agribusiness Short Course in 2016 to contribute to the value chain development sector. “Some of the things that I have learnt, during my time in Australia, is the development of value chain and climate-smart agricultural practices for smallholder farmers which I am able to use in my current work,” says Susan.

Value chain relates to taking a whole-of-chain perspective, from primary producers and their input suppliers, through each stage that the product passes through, until it reaches the end consumer. The importance of a whole-of-chain perspective is the ability to examine the flows of products, money and information, whilst establishing how these factors are influenced by their relationships with each other within the chain. Of particular importance is the need to understand markets and consumers, and the state of collaboration among various chain members.

The Zimbabwe tomato industry value chains currently faces three problems:

  1. Smallholder farmers producing excess supply for the fresh market. This gives rise to high postharvest losses and depressed incomes.
  2. Tomato paste manufacturer’s supplying processing tomatoes of a low quality and at an unreliable pace. This resulted in processing plants operating at 50% capacity, at some times or not operating at all, due to the lacking supply of tomatoes. And,
  3. The tomato sauce manufacture brand, which has been available for over 20 years, has been facing stagnated sales as consumers switch to imported substitutes.

In dealing with this situation, Susan started by identifying the product, tomato sauce, as being important to the actors in the chain, and having the potential for increased marketing opportunities. She then mapped out the chain actors, and initiated the project by briefing each of the chain members on the value chain analysis. All members were requited to on the confidentiality aspects of the project as well as the reporting requirements. Next, she conducted a consumer focus group and held interviews with the retailer, the production, the marketing and the quality control managers at the sauce manufacturer, as well as the paste processor, farmers and seedling supplier.

Adopting a value chain approach highlighted how all these partners could better align their skills, resources and actions to deliver the required products and services to different market segments. This could be achieved whilst reducing waste, and ensuring that financial returns are equitably distributed, thus sustaining partnerships within the chain. The value chain approach has the benefit of being able to improve the competitiveness of each business and helps chain members to recognize their interdependence and the consequent benefits of solving shared problems.

Click below to watch Susan speak about her work within the value chain sector:

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