Environment Africa empowers local widows

Conservation, farming education and support transforms lives

In recent articles, we have been highlighting success stories of community projects we support on the ground in Zimbabwe today. Environment Africa is committed to environmental conservation together with support for local communities, knowing that in order for the environment to be conserved in a sustainable manner, communities need to be responsible for and to use their surrounding environment wisely.

This story is about Juliet N (her name has been changed to protect her from any possible victimization) lives in Manicaland Province. She was married in 1994 but sadly, her husband passed away in December 2001, she was left a widow with two children to support and no foreseeable income other than her existing subsistence farming. Juliet became aware of Environment Africa through their workshops on organic farming and irrigation. She attended these workshops where she learnt about organic farming methods, production and processing, nursery preparations, proper record keeping and marketing skills.

With this new found knowledge, the journey to success for Juliet started in February 2008 when Environment Africa gave her 100g of onion seed which she planted on an acre of land. She was also supported by working partners of Environment Africa who ensured that she had access to adequate irrigation water supply. She also planted maize and tomatoes.

In that year, she harvested 5 tonnes of onions compared to previous years where her average crop had been around 2 tonnes, 2 tonnes of maize and a tonne of tomatoes. Not only was this a personal achievement but also was set a record, yet to be broken within the local area amongst irrigation farmers. With the profits she made from the crops, she was able to drill a borehole costing US$700, bought asbestos sheeting and cement to renovate her home.

The following year, Environment Africa supported her again with tomato seed. 2009 saw a year of drought which impacted many farmers, however, Juliet was able to irrigate her crops with water from her borehole and further improve her familys standard of living through her own efforts. Having seen her successes, her neighbours started coming to her for advice on irrigation farming methods and she was able to help them with water from her borehole so that they could produce their own crops.

The inspiration that comes out of this story is that with education and the right support, communities are able to sustain themselves and pass this knowledge on to others to perpetuate the cycle. Today, Juliet has six dependents, her two children and four orphans from her late sister and brother and she is able to pay for and provide for their day to day needs and education. She is able to buy basic items which we take for granted like sugar, cooking oil, flour and soap

She has continued to learn more about organic conservation farming and utilizes all available natural resources in a responsible manner for her farming production. She no longer buys expensive toxic fertilizers as she produces compost from her cattle manure. Each year has seen her harvest increase in size and viability and she has gained great respect within her community through her achievements. She is a role model for conservation farming.

In her own words Juliet says Thanks to Environment Africa, I have been able to vastly improve the production of nutritious food. We used to have 2 meals per day but now we have three or even four meals a day. Education for my dependents is no longer an uphill struggle. Marketing of my good quality crops has attracted local and distant buyers. My knowledge about onion and tomato production has received admiration from my fellow farmers as evidenced by their coming to my homestead to seek my advice. Therefore, my wish is that Environment Africa stays in this area and continues assisting the vulnerable rural poor like ourselves, especially widows

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