Peanut butter with purpose: Zimbabwe’s Ziye Zano project

The five women who founded the project stand with a teenage boy under a tree, displaying the peanuts they have gathered.

It all took root with 5 ambitious women (Blessmore, second from left and Shylit, far right) and an idea…

Who knew that peanut butter could extend beyond simply being a delicious source of nutrients? The women of the Ziye Zano project in Zimbabwe, are well aware that peanuts have an immense potential to change lives.

The Ziye Zano project is an income-generating initiative that was funded by Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope program. Wanting to reflect their hopeful and driven goal of becoming free from poverty, the women named the project Ziye Zano – which translates from Shona as “have a better plan”.

The project was created in 2009, when a group of 5 women from the Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe used their skills training and knowledge of microfinance to form a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA).Together, they decided that a food processing unit would be a unique opportunity to benefit both themselves and the community, by providing lasting economic security. However, they had little means to fund the project and, as such, reached out to Plan, seeking financial assistance. “It wasn’t a good project because we had no money,” said the Ziye Zano mill Chair, Shylit, 45. “Fortunately, Plan answered our proposal.”

In 2012, Plan – along with other stakeholders – agreed that the provision of a grinding mill, a peanut butter making machine, and an oil-processing machine would be viable and sustainable investments and approved the project, aiding with funding.

The power of a peanut

The women begin their workday at 8 a.m., shelling ground nuts, roasting peanuts and performing various tasks until 4 in the evening. In addition to the hands-on food processing, they also manage all the crucial aspects required of a successful business, including creative strategies like labelling/packaging and administrative responsibilities, like bookkeeping.

“To the women who are involved, they are now able to manage a business. They have marketing, finance and distribution departments,” explained Angela, a Plan Zimbabwe staff member, who has assisted in facilitating the project.

By maintaining this level of professionalism, as well as achieving success within their business, the women are gaining respect, along with profits. “We have good and symbolic power in the community. During community meetings, they sometimes give us time to talk to the people or even advertise our project. We are now being respected, even by our chiefs,” said Shylit.

Grinding nuts, spreading joy
The 10 women of the Ziye Zano project stand proudly in front of the project building which serves as their processing plant and office.

The 10 women of the Ziye Zano project stand proudly in front of the building which serves as their processing plant and office.

People are not only taking notice of the women’s mill project, but the benefits are also expanding to have a positive impact on the surrounding community. While enabling access to food-processing resources and other nutritional food options, the women also aim to spread joy throughout the grinding process.

“The women here are very proud of this project. They want every client or customer — that comes to grind their maize [or] process the peanut butter — to feel special. Every time a new client comes in, they welcome him or her with a dance,” said Angela.

And these women have much to celebrate: “We are now able to pay our children’s school fees. We are able to give our children food – nutritious food – and they are now healthy through this project,” explained Shylit.

There is a saying that even the mightiest of oak trees was once a little nut that stood its ground. In the case of the determined women of the Ziye Zano project in Zimbabwe, this statement couldn’t be truer. Together, they have helped their communities flourish through a seemingly small initiative. The efforts and accomplishments of this dedicated group reveal all that is possible when we invest in women and tap into their impressive potential.

“My life has become so changed,” said project member Blessmore, 35. “Even in our community, we are so different now, just because we have got some way to get money. I am the happiest, happiest woman to be chosen to come here and work for this project – our project.”

In addition to these women, the peanut butter project has helped hundreds of families – including over 975 farmers, who were provided with seeds and fertilizer, along with groundnut production and farming-related business training.

Thanks to our generous donors, the peanut butter project is fully funded. Gift the food basket today to help nourish more families.