Women explore new livelihood options

Women in Makoni District have tackled the problem of climate change by organising themselves into self-help farming groups and learning to embrace conservation farming. Where once land degradation and soil erosion pervaded the area, increased productivity is now the result.

The women in the farming groups now have a different outlook on their role and the contribution they can make.
The women in the farming groups now have a different outlook on their role and the contribution they can make.

Drought frequency is estimated at once every third year in this area. Coupled with other harsh weather conditions, this poses a major obstacle to crop and livestock farmers. Some resorted to charcoal burning for a living, but that only resulted in more deforestation.

Then in 2010, a farming project funded by the International Fund for Rural Development (IFRD), with support from the UNDP and government, was launched. This encouraged women’s groups in Masvosva Village to diversify their crops and livestock production.

Better life

In a recent interview Titus Gondwe, IFRD Projects Manager, said more than 500 small-scale farmers were exploring new livelihood options and securing a better future for themselves and their families.

“This project has led to more income for female-headed households and has also increased their involvement in decision making at household- and community level. and in farming operations through farmer groups,” said Gondwe.

He added that the training the women had been given had led to improved small livestock production and crop diversification. The women are now using improved practices to produce new crops like sorghum, legumes, peas, sunflowers and sweet potatoes.

“We also introduced the growing of onions, tomatoes and watermelons. The group-based approach seeks to improve soil and water management by using contour farming and conservation agriculture to help improve soil moisture retention and reduce erosion,” Gondwe said.

Life has indeed changed for the better. New activities such as bee-keeping, improved livestock production and conservation farming have been introduced. The women have gained valuable self-confidence as active members of self-help groups.

Woman have the power

Silvia Zuze is someone who has embraced conservation farming. “I used traditional farming methods before, but that resulted in soil infertility and erosion. Crop yields were often very low because of drought and my family ran out of food. Since we joined the farming groups and adopted conservation farming methods, my yields have increased substantially,” Zuze admitted happily.

“We now have enough food throughout the year compared to previous farming seasons. Our nutrition status has improved and our poverty level has reduced as a result of crops diversification. Thanks to UNDP and its partners,” she added.

Pamela Shirichena, 35, a single mother of four believes women have the power to drive agriculture. Despite dropping out of school due to a teenage pregnancy, she is ambitious and participated in every development programme that came her way. As a result, she eventually got involved in conservation farming.

“My life has changed for the better. There is enough food at home and I am now able to send my children to school,” she said.

Climate Change expert Chengetai Dambirwa said the issue was no longer just the concern for environmentalists. “Increasingly, more small-scale farmers, mostly women, are taking a leading role in tackling the risks of a changing global climate that leads to more severe weather,” he said.

Women in the farming groups now have a different outlook on their own role and their contribution potential.

They aim to improve market access and increase their bargaining power still further, creating a valuable knock-on effect within households and communities.

Post published in: Analysis

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