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Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe Launch Agricultural Value Chain to Foster Self-Sustainability

Logo of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference (ZCBC). Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe have launched an agricultural “Economy Value Chain”, an “ambitious” initiative that is expected to help promote self-sustainability among the people of God in the Southern African nation.

A value chain is a range of activities in the creation of a product, from the reception of raw materials to reaching a consumer. It comprises stages such as packaging, distribution and the marketing of the product. 

In a Tuesday, November 2 statement, members of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) say the value chain dubbed The Stellar Mundi Industrial Hub "is both a commercial enterprise and a tool to develop, transform and build our communities." 

“The Church is embarking on an ambitious project that will see the establishment of a synergistic Catholic Economy Value Chain. This will involve operations from farms through factories to families in the communities around us, which include both Catholic and non-Catholics,” they say.

In their statement signed by ZCBC President, Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndhlovu of Harare Archdiocese, the Catholic Bishops add that the Value Chain "is both a commercial enterprise and a tool to develop, transform and build our communities. It is the Church's torch to shine a light in dark places and shine a light in these dark times." 

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The initiative, they further say, is “an ambitious effort to activate all Catholic farms into active agricultural operations involving both cropping and livestock."

In the typical Catholic way, ZCBC members say, “the initiative will incorporate a deliberate and important Community Development aspect that will see thousands in the communities around Catholic farms and facilities participating in this self-sustaining and self-propelling Value Chain.”

The Bishops further explain that Catholic Parishes and institutions across the Southern African country will be used as centers where community members will be trained on different aspects of an economic value chain. 

"Hundreds of Parishes and Educational Facilities and dozens of Health facilities under the Church are being availed as 'Centres of Excellence' where multi-corporate subject matter experts will provide training and capacity building for community out-growers and contract packers," they say.

The Catholic institutions, the Catholic Church leaders add, "will also operate as distribution points for Community Value Chain in-puts and collection points for community Value Chain produce and out-put." 

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The Catholic Economy Value Chain, which will create multi-corporate alliances in farming and farm inputs, industrial value addition and logistics, distribution and marketing and finally consumer activation and community engagement “will touch over 8 million community members including 1.8 million Catholics nationally,” they say.

The initiative “will not only enable Catholics and the Communities easy access to affordable and quality inputs, it will also bring a lot of high-quality branded consumer goods.”

"The Stellar Mundi Industrial Hub will add value to most of the value chain agricultural output into branded consumer goods that will be marketed nationally and exported into the region," the Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe say, adding that strategic distribution partners have already been identified.

“Each individual will therefore be empowered to ‘build the Church one ordinary action at a time,’" they say, and add, “This way ordinary Catholics doing ordinary everyday things can achieve extraordinary results, e.g., building the Church one Catholic loaf at a time! Or Building the Church one bag of maize seed at a time, or indeed, one Catholic grown chicken at a time!”

Once the project matures, the Catholic Bishops say, there will be sufficient agricultural output to replace exports in primary industrial inputs. 

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"Value addition will spawn thousands of small to medium enterprises with self-sufficient families that have enhanced consumer spending power to support Industrial growth. This will no doubt assist in the manifestation of a green revolution on the back of the thousands of hectares earmarked for activation and the thousands more from Community out-growers with a guaranteed market for their out-put," they say. 

The ZCBC members further say that "an estimated 8 million people (over 1.5 million families) will feed into and feed out from the value chain giving it primary productive capacity, value addition, and critical mass in consumers to keep the Value Chain wheel rolling." 

"This will help create the upper middle-income society we desire made up of self-sufficient communities living in dignity, free of hunger and caring for their common environment with assured sustainability," they say. 

The Catholic Church leaders call upon the people of God in the Southern African nation to join the operation "to bring dignity, well-being and self-sustainability to our Church, our people and our communities in Zimbabwe."