Zimbabwe’s Tracy Vongai Mapfumo – a multi-award-winning female entrepreneur, food innovator, crop scientist and part-time researcher – founded Eny’s Treats, a food manufacturing business focusing on wholesome nut-and gluten-free snacks.
“I created a product that demands certain commercial crops that thrive in dry regions,” says Mapfumo, whose company has been providing small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe’s driest regions with a source of income since 2018.
Her company’s key ingredient is sesame seeds sourced from local small-scale farmers and processed into energy bars. This increases the demand for sesame seeds and revives the value chain which was almost extinct.
“I started this because I wanted to come up with an innovative product that people could conveniently consume,” she says, explaining how highly nutritious the grab-and-go snack is that comes in various seed bars, balls and seed butter.
The target market is a niche of health-conscious shoppers, including those who are allergic to nuts and gluten. “I was unsure of what I wanted, but I could picture myself… having an impact [in people’s lives],” she says.
Her career epiphany began after completing high school with distinctions and went to pursue agriculture. In 2015, she finished her honours degree in agriculture plant sciences cum laude at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
Born to uplift and inspire
What was supposed to be a second choice has now become a stable. In fact, this materialised when she worked for a non-profit research organisation called Bio-Innovation Zimbabwe. It promotes knowledge exchange and research around current and potential commercial uses for locally underutilised plants.
“This inspired me to start a company that uses scientific expertise in Zimbabwe’s driest areas,” says Mapfumo. Her company started out as a home-based business, but now employs four people and supplies to over ten specialty stores in Harare and Bulawayo.
The thriving Eny’s Treats is named after her late mother, Eniya Dengu-Mapfumo. “I lost her just before I graduated,” she says. “My mom nurtured my skills and taught me to work hard.”
Mapfumo has had the great fortune to be a part of FemBioBiz, a programme that enables female entrepreneurs and executives in bioscience-based companies, to expand their operations through an accelerator programme which harnesses local exposure and access to global markets.
Usually, the entry requirements for such programmes require applicants to pitch, and this has built Mapfumo’s confidence as a businesswoman in the bioscience field. In 2019, she participated in the Youth Connekt programme and was awarded the First Runner-Up prize for Mashonaland Central.
Since Mapfumo works with small-scale women farmers, she says she’s noticed a disturbing pattern. “Usually a man would come in when they start seeing income, claiming that the land belongs to them,” Mapfumo stresses the need for women’s empowerment and issues that touch on the core of land ownership need to be properly interrogated.
An innovative woman
For this, she pursued a partnership with the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) to train rural women and youths on the value addition of marula kernels in the Mberengwa district. This partnership has birthed the first farming cooperative by some rural women in this district.
These marula kernels, Mapfumo says, will be used to make snacks. Again this is another venture that seeks to add more value to the natural resources within reach to these women. Mapfumo’s innovative mind never hibernates when it comes to eyeing out on opportunities that seek to bring about upliftment in people’s lives.
She has won a couple of awards for being innovative, which includes being crowned as the 2019 CBZ Youth Entrepreneurs Program Start-Up Business Winner and season six of the national TV competition Ndine Thaza in 2021.
In addition to these acknowledgements, she was recently mentioned in the GoGetter Movement book titled The Founding 100, which tells and celebrates young Zimbabwean women and also participates in a Circular Economy, an initiative run by Impact Hub Harare. Just a couple of months ago she was listed on the under 30 MACYDO LEAD, as a top social media entrepreneur.
All of these involvements have given her enough ammunition to grow the brand in the southern regions of Africa and beyond in the near future. She’s decided to take part in ZimTrade’s EaglesNest Program, which will allow her to learn more about trading laws.
Mapfumo is just a prolific woman in possession of meticulous wit. “I want to be successful,” she says. Her ambitions stretch much higher and the stars are within reach.