About 107 women in Matshiloni area in Beitbridge East constituency are set to benefit from the establishment of a $100 000 Mopani Worm Processing Centre.

The project is part of government efforts to transform the livelihoods of communities through sustainable exploitation of their natural resources.

Mopani worms are not only a source for protein for many rural communities in Matabeleland South Province but most women are sustaining their families from selling the edible caterpillars to various markets.

The growth of this industry has seen the government through funding from the African Development Bank and technical support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) initiating a Mopani Worm Processing Centre in Matshiloni.

Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Cde Sithembiso Nyoni who was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of the project said the processing of the worms in a more hygienic and organised manner will enable the beneficiaries to penetrate the export market.

“Our experience elsewhere has been that projects such as this one lead to wider development, in fact to an area’s development with improved economic prospects and quality of life for the inhabitants,” she said.

The ILO country representative Ms Hopolang Phororo said the processing plant is one of three projects being implemented in the country to address rural unemployment and gender inequality.

“All this is in line with the descent work agenda of the ILO which promotes creation of opportunities for productive work that delivers a fair income, security for workers and most importantly equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men,” she said.

In order for the project to be viable there is need to come up with strategies of ensuring sustainable harvesting of mopani worms said the Provincial Minister of State for Matabeleland South Province Cde Abednico Ncube while beneficiaries of the project Rovhona Roita Co-operative, pledged to put the plant to good use.

“We are cognisant of the fact that some people are using unsustainable methods of harvesting of amacimbi which threatens the viability of this project hence the need to ensure that we address these problems as a province,” he said.

The amacimbi drying slab and solar dryer are already in place, with the next state being to construct the processing plant.