Ratidzo Nyanhanda has become busy as a bee, with customers swarming her house now and then, buying homemade baobab coffee from her.
Yet at the age of 48, she is confident she has just made her own breakthrough, years after struggling.
Married with four daughters, Nyanhanda said with baobab coffee, which she is producing using seeds of baobab fruits, she has made a difference in her family, helping her husband Takemore Nyanhanda shoulder the responsibility of supporting the family.
Apart from her self-job as a baobab coffee maker, Nyanhanda works as a pre-school teacher at Mabelreign Adventist Creche, a kindergarten center run by the Mabelreign Seventh Day Adventist Church in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, where her husband also works as a caretaker.
While the world battles the effects of the coronavirus, Nyanhanda said she has had to convert that into an opportunity, making money instead, this even as learners at the creche that employed her were shut out from school by the pandemic, meaning that she also lost income from her teaching job.
“The COVID-19-induced lockdowns presented an opportunity for me to fully concentrate on my baobab-making project and further develop the business, which I can safely say is doing very well because COVID-19 couldn’t stop people from taking coffee,” she disclosed.
Weapon against COVID-19 impacts
For Nyanhanda, as the impacts from the coronavirus blocked many people from going to work, baobab coffee-making became an answer for her financial inadequacies.
“Stepping up my production of the baobab coffee really became necessary, as we had been locked down and couldn’t afford to go out and work as usual, and so while I stayed home with my family, I made the baobab coffee, which has continued to sell nevertheless,” said Nyanhanda.
In fact, as many indigenous coffee makers like Nyanhanda are making strides even as the country’s economy teeters, indigenous baobab coffee makers here have stumbled on gold.
Using self-acquired grinding machines, indigenous coffee makers are crushing baobab fruit seeds into powder which they then sell as baobab coffee to health fanatics, who consider it healthy and nutritious.
For people with hypertension challenges like 63-year-old Melinda Dhobhi based in Harare’s high density suburb of Kuwadzana Extension, baobab coffee has become a force to reckon with in her battle against the medical condition.
Baobab coffee answers all
Even Zimbabwean health experts like Marshal Mbizi, a medical doctor by profession based in Harare, see crushed baobab seeds as the panacea against multiple medical challenges.
“Baobab seed powder has plentiful nutrients which are healthy, and it’s a natural antibacterial, also a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, carbohydrates and phosphorus,” Mbizi confirmed.
Another medical doctor in private practice in Zimbabwe, Martin Ruwonga, said “the baobab fruit and powder also have antiviral, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.”
And many indigenous coffee makers like Nyanhanda have capitalized on these as many baobab coffee consumers like Dhobi cannot now afford to do without the homemade baobab coffee.
“Baobab seeds have lots of medicinal value which helps reduce the chances of one falling sick, in this case particularly helping to reduce hypertension, diabetes, asthma and insomnia,” said Nyanhanda.
Cashing in on baobab coffee
Armed with these advantages that baobab coffee has, Nyanhanda said she has cashed in on the product, raking in 300 to 400 US dollars every month from selling baobab coffee, this after subtracting transport costs, labor costs and raw material costs as well as packaging costs.
She gets the baobab fruits from which she extracts the seeds to make the coffee from Chibuwe, an area in Chipinge, one of the districts in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province, 445 kilometers (276 miles) east of Harare.
According to Nyanhanda, a ton of baobab fruits costs $110 inclusive of transport, and for her, she has to source the baobab fruits in bulk, but even then, registering success all the way.
“The baobab coffee has been a success, as l even get customers as far as Bulawayo and South Africa,” Nyanhanda said.
Apparently upbeat about her coffee making venture, she said “it has given me pride to know I’m my own boss, and l now have my own brand in the coffee I make.”
As such, indigenous baobab coffee makers like Nyanhanda dream even bigger amid their huge strides.
“I look forward to the registration of my own baobab coffee making company and starting to attract investors so that l can acquire the machinery needed because the process of making the coffee is so intense and so machinery will ease the work for me,” she said.
In Manicaland’s Chimanimani area, since 2017, a group of villagers from the Gudyanga area came together to form their own baobab coffee making company called Bao Mix Private Limited, thanks to help from the European Union and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Like Nyanhanda, Bao Mix’s marketing manager Zakeo Nhachi said their coffee making company also buys baobab fruits across Manicaland province.