Over the past 15 years, severe land degradation, reliance on rain-fed agriculture, changing weather conditions and mismanagement of the economy have led to a decline in food production and widespread poverty.
To tackle these challenges, the Rural Self-Help Development Association (RSHDA), a local NGO, early this year launched a rural community gardens project targeting impoverished families in the area.
The gardens are established on various portions of unused land in the community, which is allocated by the local headman with consultation with the district council. They will focus on food and nutrition security, health, education and social welfare.
The idea is that each family member has a portion of the garden that belongs to them, but they share the irrigation pipes on rotational basis.
In a recent interview with The Zimbabwean, the RSHDA Projects Manager Tobias Paunganwa said the project provided irrigation equipment, implements and seeds. They also trained and mobilized for the establishment of the community gardens, which can be successfully used to grow food in harsh climates – making the best use of poor soils.
He said they were working in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development. “The project is aimed at assisting women and men in using the community gardens to produce a variety of vegetables, including local spinach, carrots, beetroots, green peppers and onions,” he explained.
No more hunger
The gardens can support the production of a wide variety of vegetables throughout the year using irrigation. “Community gardens require less labour and can support the production of at least five varieties of vegetables at the same time. This supports dietary diversity. Each garden should generate sufficient produce to feed a family of eight” added Paunganwa.
Moses Nyamurundira (43) from Nyanga South constituency is one of the project beneficiaries. He has four children and a wife to provide for. He spoke proudly of his community garden, which has helped to lift his family out of hunger.
“The advantage of this garden is that it is nearby my homestead. Even when I am sick, I can still pick vegetables. I don’t have to walk long distances,” he said. “Some of the vegetables are for my family consumption but I also sell them to villagers around and at the nearby market where I have a stall.”
To increase the positive impact on food and nutrition security for the recipient households, the project combines gardening interventions with other activities, such as growing fruit trees. Another beneficiary Shamiso Sakupwanya (28) said: “I have grown fruit trees and I am selling them at the local market and supplying schools around. I also grow tomatoes and water melons. I am making a living out of this initiative.”
Susan Murodzi (48), the chairperson of Magarati Village Support Group, who is also growing some fruit trees, has encouraged fellow women to make use of the solar dryers provided by the project in order to preserve fruit and vegetables.
Magarati Village Support group is also working closely with RSHDA in empowering women. “I am encouraging other women to join us in this project. It is helping us a lot to survive. It is another better and easy way to generate income. We are happy that we have been supplied with the solar dryer. In this solar drier you won’t have bacteria. I can preserve fruits, especially these days, when it’s imperative to supplement our diet with fruit nutrients,” she said.
“One of the great advantages of solar drying is that it maintains a high level of flavor and nutrients in the produce and, when compared with open-air drying, improves the product’s level of hygiene and quality by protecting it from rain, insects and dust,” said Murodzi.
The ward 18 councillor in Magarati village, Jeremiah Shoko, said the project was clearly a huge success. “I have noticed families in the village be able to send children to school as a result of the income they are getting after selling their produce,” he said.
Shoko added: “This area has been associated with hunger. But, these gardens have changed the economic and social face of the community. The majority of the villagers have been economically empowered.”
He said unemployed youths had also embraced the project of establishing the gardens on their own initiative.Post published in: News