Last month after yet another successful edition of the Traditional and Organic Food and Seed Festival, organisers were bombarded by the public asking the now familiar question: where can you buy such things all year round? Enter Teresa Mungazi and Nick Takavadii with an exciting initiative to fill the gap in the market.
As members of the Traditional and Organic Food Forum (the organisation behind the festival), the pair have a keen insight into the needs of both producers and consumers of wholesome foods.
As such, their new NaturalHub will begin to sell a variety of products from festival exhibitors this month. This will happen through its Facebook page initially but there are plans for a fully functioning website in the near future. NaturalHub are offering over a hundred natural food and body care products for sale, including flours, grains, teas, herbs, jams, body oils and more. Depending on how this goes, Mungazi and Takavadii hope to eventually set up a physical shop with satellite points around Harare for easy pick-up and delivery.
“Our intention,” explains Takavadii, “is to continuously improve and further invest in the growth of our collective capacity to better serve and make it easy for people to access these quality, healthy, natural products.”
While the NaturalHub is not strictly the Food Forum’s shop (it is being set up independently), both Mungazi and Takavadii are happy to provide a service that will benefit other members of the Food Forum and the farmers and organisations who exhibited at the festival.
Set up as a social enterprise, the NaturalHub will start out as a ‘one-stop shop’ for small-scale producers of natural and organic food, with free delivery. However, Mungazi says the aim is to ultimately become something of an endorser for producers, enabling consumers to confidently purchase the products on offer knowing that checks have been made on quality and processes. “The idea is to be a brand that the suppliers want to associate with,” she explains. By harvesting feedback from consumers they also hope that the NaturalHub will act as an important source of data for producers to help them develop better products.
“We are really excited,” says Thandi Henson from the African Women’s Initiative in Developing Economies (AWIDE), one of the suppliers. “We would have an outlet of our own if we could afford one. It is great to have an opportunity to collaborate – it works to both our gains.”
Bertha Nherera at Orsha Foods agrees: “I think it’s is a good collaboration. It is in the young stages so I am waiting to see how it unfolds.”
Accessing affordable, local and quality healthy food is an issue for many Zimbabweans, cash-strapped or not. These foods are produced in relatively small quantities (as the demand has not been high), making them often more expensive and inconvenient to find – although many supermarkets now have dedicated shelves for small grain flours and other local health foods. These foods are more nutrient-dense which is increasingly important given the rise of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Furthermore, growing them is more in tune with the Zimbabwean environment. Mungazi and Takavadii realise that this is not an easy market place. Yet they enter the fray with passion and good connections to the producers, and a belief that they are part of a greater movement that will get Zimbabweans more conscious about the food that they are eating.