Countries that have successfully grown their exports over the last decade have taken a keen interest in developing export capacities of all their communities.
Here, these countries have identified areas their communities enjoy competitive and comparative advantages, riding on natural resources and other endowments.
For example, Germany has about 500 indigenous species that they have commercialised and these have helped a number of previously niche market actors across the country to become significant industry players.
Germany’s locally produced foodstuffs are now considered as export growth drivers in the country, making it one of the largest exporters.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe has over 5,000 indigenous species with huge potential for export growth if commercialised sustainably.
However, only a handful have been commercialised.
To address the challenge, President E.D Mnangagwa’s Government has been implementing the devolution agenda to boost how communities leverage on their natural endowments as they up their contribution towards economic development.
This development approach is expected to grow the contribution of all communities to the national economy, including international trade in line with targets of an export-led economy as espoused in the National Development Strategy 1.
What is important going forward is identifying low hanging fruits for local communities, that could be used as the foundations of increased economic activities and outputs.
For example, a research conducted by ZimTrade – national trade development and promotion organisation – revealed that all districts in Mashonaland Central province can leverage on agriculture as they develop export capacities of other sectors.
Consolidation will also be a strategic move that will ensure access to export markets by all communities in Mashonaland Central.
Agriculture form the bulk of economic activities in Guruve district, with most farners producing traditional crops such as maize, tobacco, beans, and cotton.
Recent research by ZimTrade showed that quick wins for the district include yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, ground nuts, and sugar beans.
Already, most farmers in the district are familiar with sugar beans production and could be used to develop export capacities of new exporters and smallholder farmers.
Horticultural crops such as butternuts, chillies, and peas could also be earmarked for export development, particularly in solar powered nutrition gardens that have been set up in the district.
Emerging crops such as sesame seeds, which have a ready market in regional markets, can also provide alternative options for farmers who are trying new export crops.
What is important for farmers in Guruve district is to consolidate as most of the smallholder producers have no capacity to meet huge quantities often required by buyers.
Thus, consolidating will help unlock market access, and at the same time make it easy for producers to raise their quality.
Apart from farming, Guruve district is home to the renowned Tengenenge Arts and Crafts Centre, Mukaera Village and Mugavazi Arts Centre and these have all been producing top quality export products over the years.
The specialised stone sculptures from the centres have potential in international markets such as Europe, Asia, and America.
Addressing challenges that often affect artists in Guruve district, such as electricity, as well as unlocking direct market access will help grow exports from the arts and crafts sector in Guruve.
Mbire district is a mainly agro-based with legumes, grains topping crops and animal husbandry, cattle, goats, and sheep.
There are producers in Mbire who have started exporting herbal tea products such as dandelion, rosella, spearmint, peppermint, gotakola, and stevia.
Other producers are focusing on value-added masau, and baobab, and dried vegetables.
The district can use these products as a springboard to introduce other crops that are currently produced in high quantities in Mbire district.
Climatic conditions in Mbire favour production of crops such as cowpeas, which is produced in large quantities.
Producing smalls packets, well packaged and branded, instead of selling in bags, as well as value addition processes such as pre-boiling will make it possible for farmers in the district to fetch better income on the export front.
Crops such as ground nuts, peanuts, sorghum, and sesame are currently being produced on subsistence basis and some of them are sold in Mozambique.
However, with support to boost production, there is potential to transform the subsistence farmers into groups of exporters.
Further to this, in livestock production, a number of development partners are assisting livestock farmers in boosting their quantities of cattle and goats, and this presents opportunities in the international meat market.
Buyers in Dubai are looking for Zimbabwean suppliers of Halal certified goat meat and an export-focused capacity development programme will unlock such markets to farmers in Mbire.
Mining and agriculture make up the bulk of economic activities in Bindura district.
On the mining end, value addition and beneficiation will ensure that communities in Bindura district retain most of the benefits from their natural resources such as copper, cobalt, nickel, and gold.
In the agriculture sector, low hanging fruits are in the horticulture sector, focusing on crops such as butternuts, cabbages, tomatoes, peas, carrots, watermelon, green pepper, onions, sugar beans, chilli and paprika in huge quantities.
As most producers are small-scale, farmers must be organized into groups or associations where they can receive all the necessary support in terms of training and access to finance necessary to help them produce export-oriented products.
There are also small-scale carpenters across the district who can be linked with players in the arts and crafts sector to produce high-end functional arts for niche global markets.
This level of cooperation will unlock international markets for the arts and crafts sector and furniture sector players.
Economic activities in Muzarabani include agriculture, mining and fishery.
Although production is still low, the climatic condition in Muzarabani district favour favour production of Sesame seeds and sorghum, which can be developed into export products.
In terms of livestock production, goats and guinea fowl are abundant in the district, and these have an export potential that is still to be exploited.
Export-focused fishery projects can be developed in the district, to tap into opportunities available in the dams.
As the district has a sizable population of wild animals, sustainable production of exotic leather products may provide export options for businesses in Muzarabani.
Mazowe and Mount Darwin districts
Mazowe and Mount Darwin districts are touted as having capacity to produce top quality and better taste sweet potatoes and the crop can lead development of horticulture export clusters in the district.
Other horticulture produce with export capacities that can be considered for the district include mangetout, peas, baby corn, tomatoes, cabbages, butternuts, oil seeds, garlic, turmeric and ginger.
On plantations, the district has citrus production, and developing the entire citrus value chain will diversify export products from the sector, which in turn will result in better returns.
Beverages such as fruit juices are a low hanging fruit for the district and other fruit trees that can be considered include mangoes.
Rushinga and Shamva districts
Farmers in Rushinga and Shamva districts are involved in the value addition of the commodities they produce such as groundnuts to peanut butter and they are selling locally.
There are opportunities in regional markets that they could explore, as they grow their capacity to reach international markets.
The district has a lot of baobab trees and masau trees and the fruits are normally sold to buyers from other towns.
Developing value addition capacities for local communities will help retain the value in the two districts.
Products such as baobab oil and powder have markets in international markets, including Germany.
Potatoes are also widely grown in Rushinga and Shamva districts and apart from selling raw, value addition into snacks will improve access to export markets.
There are businesses in Rushinga that are involved in harvesting timber from trees such as ‘Mukamba’, ‘Mungoriyondo’ and ‘Muchenarota’ and process it into hard wood-planks, and they sell these products to Harare.
These products also have potential for exports.
With the health behaviours buzz across the world, zumbani trees that are abundant in the two districts can be value added into healthy teas.
Packaging and branding will determine the success of the products.