Food security boost from Care Zimbabwe

Sekai is an elderly woman who has lived in the high Density suburb of Mkoba for 40. It has been 10 years since her husband died from an AIDS-related illness and ever since then she has been surviving on food handouts from relatives.

NGOs throughout Zimbabwe are working in rural communities to help with food security.
NGOs throughout Zimbabwe are working in rural communities to help with food security.

Thanks to the work of Care Zimbabwe, in conjunction with the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organisation, Sekai has high hopes of being able to provide for herself and her family through micro-irrigation schemes.

Care started its operations in Zimbabwe in 1992. The humanitarian aid organisation now works with some of the poorest communities in Zimbabwe. ECHO's global work is to fight world hunger through innovative options, agricultural training and networking.

Fenced gardens

The two donors early this year established 92 fenced gardens, measuring one hectare each, across Gweru's high density suburbs. Besides Mkoba, the gardens are also found in Senga, Nehosho, Mtapa and Mambo. In each garden, about 30 vulnerable people are accommodated, bringing the total number of people under the project close to 3 000.

Seventy percent of the beneficiaries are women. This has empowered women to take charge of the operations at the gardens. Each plot has a borehole and electric generators to drive the pumps have also been installed. If the electricity pumps fail, 20 bush pumps have been stationed as a back up water supply.

Many of the project beneficiaries have gone on to sell their produce to supermarkets and at vegetable stalls in town. Others travel further afield to reap a greater profit.

"I tested HIV positive last year. My health then started to dwindle and due to poverty, I was not able to seek health care from doctors and depended on government clinics which often did not have drugs,” said a project beneficiary.

"My relatives disowned me and no-one wanted to help me. However, one day in July a friend told me about this project and things became easier. I have the money to cater for my needs.”

Fighting stigma

She added that the project has not only allowed her to be self-sufficient but also to fight the stigma of being HIV positive.

Letwin Ngirandi a 28-year-old woman who has benefitted from the initiative said: "We did not only benefit economically here. ECHO taught us agricultural skills that no-one can take from us. We can still employ them elsewhere, especially in formal employment."

Several other beneficiaries lauded the donors for the noble initiative. Asked to compare the project with the chaotic land grab spearheaded by Zanu (PF) in 2 000, the beneficiaries noted that there were huge differences.

"To start with, the criteria of who benefits is different. The one used here is transparent and traceable. The one for the Zanu (PF) was a corrupt and self-enriching exercise. No wonder we did not benefit," one man said on condition of anonymity.

"Our farming here has a market model. We understand we are in business and our operations are based on that. We do not wait to reap what we have not sown like the fake Zanu (PF) so-called farmers," another beneficiary told The Zimbabwean.

No complacency

Former Gweru Mayor Sessil Zvidzai, who is now Deputy Local Government Minister, encouraged the beneficiaries not to be complacent.

"Zimbabwe has seen many donor-assisted projects that have flourished in the presence of donor partners only to die as soon as the donor leaves. I am glad that those people who are in that project have put in place measures to ensure sustainability of their operations," he said.

Zvidzayi also reiterated the need for the community to support the project, saying the way in which the beneficiaries were conducting their farming was honest. Incumbent Mayor, Teddius Chimombe said: "My council values that project, that is why staff have been set aside to ensure that there is continuity. Resources in the form of vehicles will also be availed to staff assisting in this and other like projects."

The project, Chomombe added, would be assisted by the council in order to encourage growth in the years to come.

Post published in: Agriculture

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