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Leatherworkers and hairstylists open for business in Zimbabwe’s Hopley Farm

Hopley Leatherworks group displaying products they made during training. Proceeds from sale of products in markets will be used to buy more materials. Photo: AFSC

On Hopley Farm, a settlement for displaced people outside of Harare, Zimbabwe, a group of new leatherworkers are celebrating their first business milestone: After just a three-week training course, they sold $64 dollars’ worth of sandals, school shoes, and satchels that they had made by hand.

“Satchels were most on demand than other products,” says group member Hosea Nyamadzawo.

Now that their training is complete, the group’s 14 members—11 women and three men—have formed a leadership committee and developed rules for running their enterprise. They’ve reinvested their earnings into materials for another production round and into improving their workspace.

“After training, we managed to get temporary workspace. With the money that we raised, we bought building materials for the work shade that include plastic, planks, and cardboard boxes,” says Maud Chafuka.

Hopley Farm is one of two sites of AFSC’s expanded livelihoods restoration program, which for nearly five years has worked with residents of Hatcliffe Extension to connect people with the skills and materials they need to make a living.

The three-year projects in Hopley and Gwanda combine skills training with community peace-building. They are modeled on the successful work in Hatcliffe Extension, where many participants have built on their new skills by innovating new business ventures.

Elsewhere on Hopley farm, the 15 women—young and old—of Flowers of Joy Hair Salon finished their training course in early December and quickly set up shop in the house of one of their members.

The three-week training course covered techniques such as braiding and weaving, as well as using chemicals, shampoo, and beeswax to style hair. Through practicing these skills on clients from the community, they were able to raise $14.50.

“We also got practical knowledge and skills on how to do different hairstyles and on how to charge for our services,” explains Rosemary Gonese, a group member.

The training group was so large that for business purposes, it split into three smaller groups, including Flowers of Joy. The trainees shared the start-up tools they received for completing the course; while another group got the hair blower, Flowers of Joy is responsible for a generator and a hair dryer, which they share with the other groups on request.

But sharing their tools is already proving to be a challenge for business.

“We have noticed that we are losing customers who come when the generator is being used by the other groups,” says Mercy Maseringa.

Though the business is small, Sandra Muungani says that it gives the group members a way to generate income and perfect their skills. And eventually, the profits will impact their quality of life.

“As we operate our business will get more money which we will share for our household expenses,” she says.