NEARLY three years ago, Zimplats embarked on a strategy aimed at local supplier development, by assisting in the formation of new local enterprises or in strengthening existing small and medium enterprises. These initiatives have seen the company’s annual expenditure on local suppliers grow from 12 to 64% in the financial year ended June 2013. Beneficiaries of this programme include small-scale miners, manufacturers of protective clothing and community members involved in market gardening, among others.
One such enterprise that has benefited from this programme is a brick-making cooperative based in Turf village in Ngezi.
Realising the importance of capacity building for small enterprises, Zimplats partnered with Empretec Zimbabwe specifically to build the capacity of Turf Brick Moulding Co-operative (TBMC) in business entrepreneurship. The group is made up of 11 women from the community adjacent to Turf Village and includes widowers, single and vulnerable women.
They were assisted in the formation of a brick-moulding co-operative with guidance from the responsible ministry and contracted as a co-operative by the company to produce five million bricks and blocks that have been used in the US$84 million employee housing development project.
Through Zimplats, the members of the co-operative have received training in the production of modern bricks and blocks as well as quality assurance mechanisms and the maintenance of the machinery in the brickyard. The brick-making project was linked to Zimplats’s Housing Project and therefore had a ready market. When the project ended in August 2013, the co-operative had to focus on sustainability and that’s where Zimplats partnered with Empretec to carry out a capacity needs assessment for the co-operative and subsequently design a course aimed at developing entrepreneurial skills.
Empretec’ s mandate was to build the capacity of the co-operative members so they could run and manage the brick-moulding business sustainably. The training was conducted over a period of six months which include close monitoring to build confidence.
The co-operative was trained in the following areas:
Micro entrepreneurship and business management.
Internal savings and lending.
Change management and conflict resolution
Purchasing and supply
The participants are now equipped with knowledge on the basic principles of running and managing a business, record keeping, marketing and stock control.
Empretec also assisted the group in crafting a business plan and putting in place management systems. This training has boosted their confidence in running a sustainable business competently. Key suppliers and potential markets within Mashonaland West have also been identified.
Chairperson of the co-operative Manjengwa (pictured) pointed out that one of the key lessons learnt is that business is erratic and in order to get revenue a lot of commitment, planning and effort is required. She also learnt that women are indeed capable of carrying out work that in the past was a preserve of men.
“In the past brick-making was seen as something that only men did, but we have learnt that women can make quality bricks too. If people see the houses that have been built with the bricks that we made, its testimony that women can do a good job, if given the opportunity,” she said.
The lives of the members of the brickmaking co-operative have been transformed as all members attest to the fact that they have been able to make life-changing investments for the benefit of their families. All the members have been able to build their own homes ranging from three to five roomed houses. They have also been able to ensure that their children attend school uninterrupted as they are able to meet school fees obligations. Some have been able to send their children to secondary school and institutions of higher learning such as polytechnics with money earned from the venture. Going forward their thrust is to run the business venture in a sustainable manner and for this they require support from individuals, organisations and corporates to place orders for bricks and/or blocks.