Organisation builds a better future for children

At least 42,000 disadvantaged children, their families and communities are feeling the benefits of work by Plan International Zimbabwe. THABANI DUBE discovers how the organisation is working to build a better future for young Zimbabweans.

Spearheading practical programmes for health, education and community development – Angela Machonesa of Plan Zimbabwe.
Spearheading practical programmes for health, education and community development – Angela Machonesa of Plan Zimbabwe.

“Every year, Plan invests in programmes and projects that promote the realisation and fulfilment of children’s rights and alleviation of poverty in communities,” says Angela Machonesa of Plan Zimbabwe. “The programmes include education, child protection, food security and health.”

Plan is an international child-centred community development organisation without religious, political or governmental affiliation. It’s based on donors sponsoring children.

Machonesa said Plan International started operating in Zimbabwe in 1986 and, by 2013, was running programmes in 10 districts. This year, they intend to expand into three more districts.

“Our approach to work recognises government as the main stakeholder and duty-bearer in fulfilling children’s rights and we applaud the country for coming up with a constitution that guarantees child protection and participation,” says Machonesa. “Children are at the heart of everything we do and, when we help the community, we believe that the child ultimately benefits in every way.”

Last year, the organisation partnered the ministry of education and held 51 early childhood care and development (ECCD) awareness sessions to instil in communities a positive attitude towards early learning.

“To strengthen the ECCD component, we supported in-service training for 269 ECCD para-professionals and mobilised play and arts materials for 12 centres,” she says. “In addition, to ensure retention, 5,464 girls and 2,958 boys in primary schools and 4,653 girls and 3,471 boys in secondary schools were assisted with scholarships.

“In Mutare, training pupils and teachers to communicate using sign language to reduce stigmatisation, isolation and promote interaction with hearing impaired students in schools has begun,” she adds.

In the wake of a combination of successive droughts and low agricultural production that has resulted in severe food shortages countrywide, Plan has also scaled up food security programmes using grants.

“Through community group saving and lending we managed to reach 700 men and 2,534 women in Mutare, Mutasa, Chipinge, Chiredzi and Kwekwe. Loans, at low interest rates, are for investment in income generation, medication and education.”

In Matabeleland and parts of Chiredzi districts, Plan embarked on a drought preparedness programme, which enhances farmers’ understanding of approaching livestock farming as a business and how to deal with the effects of drought.

“We managed to set up veterinary services and offices in most of these districts,” says Machonesa. “We are also implementing the seasonal targeted assistance programme, which benefited 89,717 people in Chiredzi alone in 2013.

“We are promoting small grain farming in dry areas and, in 2013, a total of 267 farmers produced small grain seed. Seed production is projected at 45,520 kilos of sorghum, 29,205 kilos of millet and 4,540 kilos of cowpeas. The seed is enough to put 79,265 hectares of land under these varieties this season.”.

In horticulture farming communities such as Mutoko, Machonesa says Plan mediated for access to viable and reliable markets and eliminated the middleman.

“Access to viable and reliable markets has been a challenge for horticulture farmers in Mutoko, Mutasa and Mutare. Value chains were developed as a strategy. In Mutoko, 200 farmers were trained in farming as a business and we facilitated their engagement with the private sector to supply sugar beans and get inputs in exchange.

In Mutasa, 92 farmers realised $1,000 profit each for growing Tabasco chillies after they engaged with an agro dealer and sold more than 43 tonnes, while in Mutare, 45 farmers produced five tonnes of sugar beans under contract farming arrangements.”

The organisation has also helped more than 841,000 people spray their homes in the fight against malaria..

“We are also promoting maternal and child health programmes, water and sanitation and an expanded immunisation programme,” adds Machonesa. In 2014, Plan wants to expand its programmes to urban areas and reach out to urban youths.

“We want to help boys and girls identify their full potential through vocational training so that they get skills that suit them, and also train them in sexual and reproductive health rights,” says Machonesa.

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