Home » General » Zimbabwean Bakers Rolling in Dough: How One Bakery Is Fending Off Hunger

Brick by brick twenty-eight women and men in rural Zimbabwe laid the foundation to their cooperatively-owned bakery, also laying the groundwork for a hunger-free future in their community. Through WFP's Food-for-Assets (FFA) programme, communities across the country are provided with the food and support needed to begin earning sustainable incomes amidst difficult times. 

The smell of 15 dozen warm loaves of bread waft through a bakery’s open doorway…. On the rare occasion that the bakery doesn’t sell out of loaves and sugar rolls, the bakers take the leftovers to sell in the nearby villages of Mutasa district.

This is a poor area that has experienced repeated dry spells linked by many to climate change. Some 76 percent of rural Zimbabweans live below the national poverty line, surviving on less than USD 1.25 per day. A third of the rural poor are considered to be “food poor” or “extremely poor”.

Getting food can be unimaginably difficult for those people whose crops have failed, especially when they don’t have much money or live far from a market.

In Mutasa, women and men began baking bread to supplement their unpredictable harvests. Twenty eight of them formed a group to exchange ideas and pair up to sell their bread outside schools.

Though they walked long distances to sell their wares, their earnings were meager - barely enough to buy the flour needed for baking.

In 2012, the group decided to approach the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Plan International with the idea of building a bakery. After a business training workshop and one year of non-stop work, they finally achieved their goal.  

While the bakers gave their time and tireless labour to build the new community asset, WFP provided them with monthly supplies of cereal, oil and legumes to feed their families. WFP partnered with Plan International - who provided construction inputs— to ensure success.

The bakery in Mutasa is one of many projects completed in 2013 and 2014 that has proven the benefits of the Food-for-Assets (FFA) programme. By supporting local projects - such as the construction of irrigation schemes and fishponds - FFA helps vulnerable communities to move away from dependence on food assistance while promoting self-reliance and making people more resilient to climate change.

“If you work here, the bakery really opens up your mind,” says Gladys Makamise, treasurer of the bakers’ co-operative. “I’ve learned a lot dealing with customers and doing calculations.”

 If you work here, the bakery really opens up your mind...I’ve learned a lot dealing with customers and doing calculations.

Gradually, the seasonal anxiety of having to feed one’s family recedes, leaving room for dreams and ambitions to flourish. 

The bakers are putting some of their earning towards buying a generator that will run through power outages and double the amount of bread they can produce. After the purchase, the bakers hope to start supplying their break to two local boarding schools.

Food and Cash-for-Assets programmes are becoming increasingly important in Zimbabwe’s fight against hunger and drought in Zimbabwe. WFP is now scaling these up to help communities survive and thrive while keeping food on their tables during the toughest months. 

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