The burden for new farmers’ children

At four o’clock in the morning, nine-year-old Tariro Mhenga of Kimcote Farm in Beatrice joins the women on a 30 km journey to Chitungwiza, reeling under a bundle of firewood.

Children sell firewood in the towns instead of going to school.
Children sell firewood in the towns instead of going to school.

After her mother ran off with another man and her father struggled to earn a living from the land he was given under the resettlement scheme, Tariro is one of many children carrying the responsibility of their family’s financial survival on her shoulders.

In St Mary’s suburb in Chitungwiza she competes with the older women to sell her bundle of firewood. When it is sold, she waits for the other women and then makes the return journey to the settlement in Kimcote. Here she gives her father her earnings and prepares dinner.

“My wish is to be in school, but circumstances have forced me to sell firewood in Chitungwiza on a regular basis to help my father who is struggling to make us survive,” said Tariro.

Many of the boys are involved in illegal sand mining near Harare to augment family incomes. “My parents asked me to do this (sand mining) because they cannot raise enough money on their own. My father is ill and cannot do much,” said Obvious Mbira, 14.

The children are forced to help raise household income because of poor yields on the farms their parents were resettled on.

“When we were resettled, the government promised to help us with inputs and training, but that has not come. We are too poor to buy seed and fertilisers. As a result, we have no choice but to look elsewhere for money,” said Moses Matenga, 45.

Instead of focusing on farming, residents are now also poaching fish from the nearby Lake Chivero.

“My heart bleeds for the children. Our decision as parents to relocate from our rural homes to these farms has crippled their lives. If we had known, we would have stayed behind,” added Matenga.

Most of the areas on which the farmers were resettled lack educational facilities, forcing children to travel long distances to the nearest schools.

According to a 2010 UN Children’s Fund report, 13 percent of Zimbabwean children are engaged in child labour which the International Labour Organization defines as work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful to children and interferes with their schooling.

Post published in: Environment

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