For years, selling eggs was a sad business for Danai Bvochora, as most of the money she earned went to cover minibus fares to market in a rural area of Zimbabwe.
That was until a solar-powered electric tricycle changed things for the better.
“We used to carry loads on our heads before. The tricycle lessened the load,” said the 47-year-old from Domboshava, about 40 kilometers north of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.
She carefully loads the eggs onto the tricycle trailer before embarking on a bumpy five-mile journey to the market.
“We even use it to go to church and worship,” Bvochora said, explaining that a single trip to buy chicken feed at a local mall used to cost around 12 euros. But charging her new solar-powered vehicle only costs about €2.50 every two weeks, and the mother of two is now cashing in.
Bvochora is among a group of women in Domboshava, a district known for its picturesque hills and giant boulders, who received a tricycle last year as part of an EU-funded project to help small farmers.
Assembled by Harare-based social enterprise Mobility for Africa, three-wheeled off-road vehicles were first introduced in Zimbabwe in 2019 to help women develop their businesses, said company director Shantha Bloemen.
Transport has historically been inadequate in sparsely populated rural areas of Zimbabwe, where women often have to walk long distances carrying heavy loads on their heads to market produce, which sometimes spoils en route in the heat.
But the idea of solving the problem with electric three-wheelers raised a few eyebrows at first, said Bloemen, a native of the United States, who has lived in the country since the 1990s, when she came to work for UNICEF.
“It was very lonely when we started,” she said, explaining that her team had to work hard to prove to funders that the idea was viable. “Nobody was talking about electric mobility in Africa, let alone rural women.”
Three years later, the social enterprise plans to more than triple its current fleet of 88 motor vehicles by the end of 2022. It operates three solar-powered stations, where drivers can swap out their lithium battery for a fully charged one during the low-speed race. energy – and pays the bill when something breaks.
Zimbabwe has faced difficult economic conditions for more than two decades, with rural areas hard hit. The country’s economy is mainly driven by the informal sector, to which these Domboshava women farmers belong.
While some of the three-wheelers – dubbed ‘Hamba’ or ‘go’ in the local Ndebele language – were bought by the EU and then offered to locals, others are rented for €5 a day.
Phyllis Chifamba, 37, a mother of four, uses her rental vehicle as a taxi. Her clients include sick people going to a clinic, pregnant women going for medicals, and villagers and farm dwellers going to do their shopping and other chores.
“I am able to provide food for my family and pay my children’s school fees with the money I earn from using Hamba,” she said.
Mobility for Africa said it plans to expand operations to other areas.
“African women are the most enterprising, the most productive, but nobody takes them seriously,” Bloemen said. “If we solve the transport problems, rural economies will work. Small farmers will bring more products to market.”
Beneficiary Frasia Gotosa said her small business has improved since she went to the market as her vegetables no longer rot while waiting for the bus or pushing a wheelbarrow.
“Now I get to the market while my produce is still fresh,” she said.
Watch the full Euronews report in the player above.