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Waste to Global Success: Maungo Craft’s Inspirational Journey of Transforming Indigenous Fruit into Artisanal Delights

In the heart of Southern Africa, a remarkable journey unfolds, embodying the essence of circular economy principles and reflecting entrepreneurship’s transformative power. At the intersection of trade and development lies Maungo Craft, a small and dynamic business that has become a shining example of the UK Government funded Trade Forward Southern Africa program.

Founded in 2017, Maungo Craft emerged from humble beginnings, fuelled by a passion for culinary creativity and a deep commitment to sustainability. The marula fruit, an abundant indigenous treasure found in Botswana, is central to the birth of the business, a fusion of knowledge gained through the virtual halls of “YouTube University” and the ingenuity of a home-based kitchen. Its initial foray into the market began with local farmers’ markets, serving as the perfect platform to showcase their artisanal creations.

“As a business, we want to grow, and export as a very big part of our strategy as well as teaching people about food diversity. That there is more than strawberries and apricots, that there are African indigenous fruits that have value that are delicious, and that can be eaten as well.” 

Maungo Craft’s story, however, extends beyond the confines of their kitchen. With a profound understanding of the circular economy, the founders saw an opportunity to collaborate with local farmers and suppliers, creating a virtuous cycle that benefits the entire value chain. By sourcing their ingredients from nearby farms and marula oil producers, they ensure freshness and quality while actively contributing to the reduction of fruit waste and the growth of 1000 women small-scale farmers.

Recognising the immense potential of Maungo Craft, NPAB, a Botswana-based business support partner of the Trade Forward Southern Africa program stepped in to support and nurture their entrepreneurial journey. Focused on enhancing food safety training, a critical aspect of expanding into international markets, the program provided crucial resources and guidance to Maungo Craft, empowering them to attain HACCP certification, product testing and digital marketing collateral, enabling them to expand their reach and tap into international markets.

Additionally, TFSA helped Maungo Craft formalize its process of documentation and record keeping. This brought greater organization and efficiency to their operations, ensuring they could maintain clear records of their production processes, a requirement for export markets.

“Our goal was to achieve HACCAP certification, which was a journey, but your training at TFSA was definitely part of that journey in making that happen. The training was very instrumental in us getting that certification, in that way, I would go and say you have been actually very instrumental in our export development plan.”- Bonolo 

The most significant impact of these operational changes was on Maungo Craft’s export capacity. With enhanced food safety practices and proper documentation, the company gained the confidence to enter the export market. In 2022, Maungo Craft successfully exported their products seven times to different clients in the United States, generating approximately P100,000 in sales. The operational changes allowed Maungo Craft to better track its sales, especially exports of different batches of products. This newfound ability to monitor their sales and shipments efficiently empowered them to scale up operations while maintaining the highest food safety standards, a crucial element in retaining customers’ trust in international markets. This was a direct knock-on effect of TFSA’s intervention, providing Maungo Craft with the foundation to navigate the complexities of international trade.

Through increased competitiveness and access to new markets, Maungo Craft has witnessed remarkable growth; in 2022, 20% of revenue was export-based, and 2023 projections indicated that 60% of sales would be a result of export trade. Maungo Craft have successfully diversified their product range, creating unique and innovative condiments that captivate customers’ palates worldwide. Recently their products were featured on CNN Inside Africa, and endorsed by Martha Stewart. To date , their products can be found internationally on Amazon, two specialty stores in Utah and are in the midst of closing a deal with a large retailer with over 400 retail outlets across the US. Regionally they made great strides with well-established retail chain stores in Southern Africa, Food Lovers, Spar, Pick n Pay and supplying hospitality businesses such as luxury camps and wilderness safaris. The ripple effect of their success has been felt in their community, as the growth of Maungo Craft has fuelled the sustainable employment of 9 women in a country of 2 million people.

“So this all ties in without a certification, you can’t really do this without knowledge of export. You can’t really do this. You have to understand all these wonderful abbreviations that determine your movements. You have to know your incoterms you have to understand customs, you have to understand the goal. Export is not easy. Export is expensive, it’s something you also have to plan for.”

Today, Maungo Craft stands as a testament to the power of circular economy principles and the positive impact of trade and development programs. Their story serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs and a shining example of how a small idea can blossom into a thriving enterprise, enriching lives and communities along the way.

“we’re very happy with our food safety certification; when it comes to exports, you find that a lot of these companies will say, “OK, we like your product, but what certifications do you have in place?” So literally, even if you’ve gotten your foot in the door, you cannot close a deal without the actual certification.”