Yellow Hands- From Soil to Service

By Yellow Hands

Yellow Hands (YH) is a family-owned social business set up by Poonam Patel to promote the art of spicing.

Zimbabwe has a very suitable climate for growing turmeric and ginger, and Poonam has developed great skill at processing both these spice roots into spice powders, and utilizing them in YH spice blends.

With 30 years of experience in growing turmeric and ginger in the backyard of her home in Harare, Poonam extends her sincere gratitude to her grandmother Valiben and mother Laxmiben, both of whom played a vital role in attracting her to learn about vegetable gardening and the floral art, respectively.

“For many many years I gave my friends and family turmeric and ginger at every harvest, and eventually in 2010, I thought of turning this passion into a form of income-generating hobby.  It took some time for us to proceed with this idea as we did not have a structure in place,; a decent size plot closer to home, a team of growers, or any kind of knowledge about water management and irrigation.  These were critical factors that needed serious consideration”. Budgeting and finance were also the major concerns.  Where do you start?

“In 2017 and 2018 we had a huge crop of mangoes at home and my children mentioned that we should make jams and chutneys and sell it at our local farmers’ market. They suggested we use that money to support Zimbabwean women who were experiencing many types of difficulties.  This was the turning point at which we either had to step up our game plan or shelf the idea!

Based on the thought that if we could sell fresh jams, chutneys and spices at the farmer’s market and hold that method of marketing for as long as we could manage, we would gain enough experience and knowledge to develop a solid foundation for a social initiative.

Rather than handouts, which most often do not last long, we decided to set up a business that would create employment, and provide skill for the long term, in particular for women.”

With a small loan, lots of confidence, and the help of PORTIA, JACKLENE, and GRACE, Poonam embarked on a life-changing journey.

“I worked with my father in his spice and grocery shop in San Francisco, California for a few years. I watched the way my father conducted his business;  it was of extreme love for his customers, their needs, requests, and his full confidence in his business and the products he was trying to sell that made him successful.  He always focused on superb quality and unmatched customer service, both of which set him apart from his competitors back in the 1980s.”

Yellow Hand’s mission statement “FROM SOIL TO SERVICE” is based on those principles of ethical practice.

In February 2019 Yellow Hands officially became what is known today as a social project to support women who have small plots to grow turmeric, ginger, peppers and herbs.  By supplying their first batch of roots to 2 families, and holding back on the major rootstock at the YH plot, the business was off to a good start.

“We supply good quality turmeric and ginger roots to selected women who have the enthusiasm to work as a group and to see the fruits of their effort realized”.

Yellow Hands business model places great emphasis on ethical values, such as fair prices for products grown and delivered to them.  “Most of our ingredients for YH spice blends are sourced regionally and we grow certain ingredients such as chilli peppers, herbs, and vegetables at our plot as well”.

“We have a dream that YH will bring awareness in Zimbabwe and that our growers MUST receive fair prices on their goods, because no matter which part of the world you may be in, the intensity of labour and time is equal, therefore, why not fair money?

By the end of 2021, we shall have 10 families growing turmeric, ginger, chilli peppers, beans, herbs and peanuts for YH.

Currently, all the processing takes place in our domestic kitchen, however, by 2022 we hope to complete our move into a facility with a commercial kitchen and packaging area.

With such difficult circumstances for everyone at the moment, we are amongst the very few small social enterprises in Harare that are feeling confident of achieving some success.  At YH we are a very small group of women with big hearts;  we want to see our network of women grow into a thriving cooperative of successful small-plot farmers and spice artisans.

Images from Yellow Hands

Originally published in the 5th Ndeipi Newsletter

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