By Joyce Mukucha
World over, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed negative impacts on all circles of life with the business sector not being spared.
This has seen many business operators and owners including Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) struggling to ensure the continued survival of their businesses.
While the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to rise worldwide, the SMEs sector has been forced to swiftly adjust to the crisis with some of the small business entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe striving to make sure they remain focused despite the challenges being caused by the epidemic.
In an interview with the Blue Chip Fisheries International, Managing Director, Sokonia Kaitano said though the nation was locked down, there was a need to guarantee food security by ensuring the availability of essential protein products such as fish.
BCFI is an organisation its business is more based on assisting already fish farmers, new fish farmers, offering training and other consultancy services.
“Fish plays a critical role and during these difficult times, we are advising our farmers to see the opportunity in the industry following that we are seeing borders closed for some time. Therefore, people need food and most needed products are produced within agriculture include fish. This is an opportunity realised by the industry and we are urging farmers to be well-positioned to serve the nation as imports will be scarce or no imports.
“We are also helping our farmers by connecting them to individuals in different WhatsApp groups where they can get individual orders then they try to make a direct delivery, it’s not very easy to move orders as one requires a letter of the permit but the focus of generating income must remain,” Kaitano said.
Explaining the challenges being caused by COVID-19, Kaitano said in as much as measures are being put in place to contain the pandemic, the fish farming industry was also being negatively affected.
He stressed that the production in this regard might be deterred by fish feed which demands imported raw materials and premixes if borders remain closed.
“Now we can’t travel to farms, some farmers are harvesting their fish, the market is not easily accessible due to limited business by distributors. Wholesalers and retailers including butcheries, restaurants, and takeaways are not taking our farmers’ products due to restricted movement of people,” he said.
He urged the SMEs who are into fish farming to plan their farming season knowing that the nation’s food security is banked on them.
“Everyone with water either its a borehole, river or dam, make sure you use that water to rear fish. Your small pond, tank or cage makes a huge difference in the economy. Take the center stage. BCFI is in their support, we are able to technically advise them 24/7.”
In another interview, the Passion Poultry Managing Director, Evangelista Chekera told Spiked Online Media that though her business was facing a plethora of challenges due to coronavirus, she was working on new innovations aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the already prevailing business.
“I started online training as a way of keeping employees together and also as an efficient way of bringing a bit of cash to sustain ourselves whilst we are home. Currently, we are doing these training sessions via WhatsApp and it’s really going well. Most of the people in Zimbabwe are connected to the platform so it’s easy for them to learn,” she said.
Chekera emphasised that it was significant for SMEs to have a contingency plan. She said it was important to be optimistic, stay positive, focused and continue learning about their businesses online during this time so that when the phase is over at least they can start on another level.
“To other SMEs out there, I would say this is a wake-up call because we were not expecting this coronavirus pandemic. Let’s stay positive, its time to put our systems in order, where we were making mistakes, let’s correct. I’m sure when this phase is over we will be at an advanced level of conducting business, we can even do more than what we are currently doing because we would have improved knowledge,” she said.
She added that SMEs should not only perceive the lockdown period as a disadvantage but also as an opportunity to work more on the administrative side of the business, an area where most business operators lack adequate expertise.
Pertaining challenges, Chekera pointed out that the major encounter Passion Poultry was facing is a lack of production because of Coronavirus.
“My sector has been exempted because we are under agriculture but the thing is as a small business, I cannot afford preventive stuff like sanitizers, gloves, masks for the workers to put on when they are working. So the number one option was to totally close the production side of the business. The other issue is that I can’t make any sales. Yes, we are still under agriculture. Farmers can come and purchase but because we do not have preventive stuff we can’t sell our products.”
She reiterated that the lockdown period must not be the reason for small business owners to hold back, instead, they ought to find strategies that help them to generate more cash flows in the business.