Former diasporan spins wastepaper into money

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MOST people regard used paper as useless waste that belongs in a garbage can.zimdollar

But not Zimbabwe’s Nyasha Manyonda, who is scraping together a living by making ornamental flowers from used paper.

Manyonda, in her early 30s, decided to leave her job as an accountant in the U.S. to pursue a career in papermaking after realizing that was where her passion lay.

“I was an accountant, but I did not get any satisfaction from the job while in the U.S.,” she told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

“It was all numbers, numbers, numbers,” Manyonda recalled.

“I was very depressed oversees. I used to pray to God to open up avenues to a good job that would make me happy,” she said.

“That’s how I realized I could make a living by reusing scrap paper,” added Manyonda.

“When I was in the U.S., that’s when I started dabbling, as I was an unhappy accountant,” she recalled.

“When I got home [from work], I would do things that would give me relief far from numbers,” she added. “So I decided to leave the job and relocate to Zimbabwe to start my small paper business.”

Manyonda and her husband then began saving money to invest back home in Harare. In 2013, she finally launched her business, African Papermakers.

“We saved enough to start building a house and buy good cars. When we settled in Harare, we had nor arrears, no credit, no rentals, no electricity bills, and no water bills,” she told Anadolu Agency with a smile.

“We dug a borehole and are now using solar energy for all our household duties, including business,” she added. “And we use gas for cooking, so we’re doing fine.”

Her small family now lives in a house built on 2,000 square meters in Borrowdale, an upscale Harare suburb.

Manyonda recalls the support she received from her husband when starting the business.

“My plan was to reopen a closed paper factory in Chitungwiza upon my return [to Zimbabwe],” she said.

Instead of renting a factory and a showroom in Harare, the couple decided to dedicate two rooms of their home to the business.

Manyonda relies on only five workers from a closed factory in Chitungwiza. The women take turns staying at Manyonda’s house for one week each where they beat paper into pulp.

The pulp is then spread onto a wire mesh screen and rinsed, leaving a thick paper material that is then dried in the sun.

 

Manyonda then uses soccer balls to form spherical shapes, attaching pieces of pulp together until a ball is formed.

“I then glue paper flowers onto the balls,” she added.

Manyonda recalled how depressed she felt early on because of the lack of demand for her product – until her sister’s wedding, that is, when she noticed how much people in Harare loved flowers.

“I focus mainly on weddings and funerals because that is where Zimbabweans are prepared to spend money,” she told Anadolu Agency.

Manyonda has nearly 50 samples of flowers that she makes using wastepaper, although she also makes wedding invitations, paper decorations and – occasionally – stationary, such as diaries.

“I was hesitant at first, but now I have clients from all over the world – Australia, Mauritius, South Africa and all over in Zimbabwe,” she boasted.

“I am controlling it, as I have a child and wouldn’t want to take huge orders. But I can safely say I am making between $ 2,000 and $ 4,000 per month,” said Manyonda.

She added: “Indeed, my life has been transformed. I have managed to make money using wastepaper – something I never dreamt of while I was attending university.”

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