via Food venture transforms needy rural women – The Zimbabwean 19 July 2015 by by Brenna Matendere
Lucia Muyambo,38, is one of many needy women who found themselves trapped in poverty as a result of the unfavourable climatic conditions in the southern Shurugwi district where it is too dry for successful crop production without irrigation.
Her life was made even harder because she was left to head a nine member family after her husband succumbed to HIV/AIDS. She battled a severe food crisis for many years but at last the tables have turned now – thanks to local experts who have introduced the small grains project.
About 400 needy women in four wards of the district, including the elderly, those living with HIV, widows and others badly affected by poverty, are benefiting from the project introduced two years ago by experts from the Environmental Management Agency. They work close conjunction with relevant authorities that include the Shurugwi Rural District Council and officials from the Agricultural Extension Services, Agritex.
The project’s prime goal is to boost the women’s food security in response to their distress call over persistent hunger. The EMA provided starter-packs of various small grain crops like groundnuts, sorghum and millet coupled with ammonium nitrate and gypsum fertilisers. Agritex chipped in with advisory services and training on various aspects of farming, including food technology. Shurugwi RDC co-ordinated all these operations.
Recently The Zimbabwean conducted a survey in the area to assess the impact of the venture on the beneficiaries. It was discovered that the initiative has really transformed their lives as all the compounds headed by underprivileged women now have granaries with overflows of harvested crops. As a way of ploughing back the assistance they got, the women have in turn started to help other vulnerable people in the area.
The empowered women spoke of various success stories. “In communal areas like ours poverty is the biggest challenge but it is mostly felt by women. Most women are left with no choice but to engage in peasant farming but due to the climatic conditions existing here, we have been hitting a brick-wall and it has been hunger in our families throughout many years. However, today I am a proud elderly woman with a good safety net of food as a result of the small grains project,” explained Muyambo.
Filda Chifambi, 80, who recently won the farmer of the year award in the whole of Shurugwi district courtesy of the small grains projects, said the venture should be taken as an inspiration by other struggling women countrywide.
Escape from hunger
“As rural women we are obviously vulnerable from the beginning. So when faced with a situation where we have to be heads of families fending for survival in dry areas where farming is the only livelihood, it becomes even tougher. Ours has been a painful rags to riches story and we feel other needy mothers countrywide should look at how we have escaped hunger and got food security,” she said.
Portia Gore, her daughter, echoed the sentiments and pointed out that as a young lady, she has earned respect and dignity in the community because of the status of coming from a family where there is no hunger.
Maggi Mujoko, 54, a single mother and beneficiary of the small grains project, bemoaned the government’s failure to facilitate food security for vulnerable citizens and emphasised that those affected by poverty had to take things into their own hands.
Gaudiosa Rashira, a formerly disadvantaged mother, added that taking care of her 10 member family had suddenly changed from being caught between a rock and a hard place to “cutting butter with a hot knife” as a result of the project.
“I dish 10 plates at every meal for my family. I am the head of the family but it has become so easy because the food will always be there. In fact I am now a champion farmer – thanks to the small grains project,” she said.
Time to discuss
Ward 13 councillor, Sheila Midzi, said the introduction of the small grains project in her area had ensured that the villagers start focusing on development issues and discuss democratic processes rather than the food crisis – because that matter had now been solved.
“Food is no longer a topical issue so we have time to discuss other matters like infrastructure development, self-help projects, health and child care, and democratic processes. To me that is good going and it is a sign of the success of the small grains project here,” she said.
EMA’s Shurugwi district monitoring officer Severino Kangara emphasised that the other gains of the project have put an end to plundering of natural resources and a halt on land degradation in the community. He added that the women in the project have sub-divided themselves into three intertwined groups which ensures that no one starves.
“They have one champion farmer, who are those with continued bumper harvests, then there is a group of average farmers and vulnerable ones who will be starting. These groups are complementary and ensure that no one starves because they assist each other. It is also important to note that cases of illegal gold panning, farming on wetlands and river banks including unauthorised sand excavation, which used to be rampant during years of hunger as people sought alternatives, have been marginally reduced,” he said.
Tariro Chishamba, the Shurugwi district Agritex officer, pointed out that nutrition levels among children had improved since the beginning of the small grains project. She said such initiatives, which boost food safety nets for needy women and effectively reduce poverty, should be prioritised by the central government.
Haruperi T Wadyechido said her child, who now weighs 10Kgs at 17 months, suddenly started improving her health due to nutritious foods from the small grains project.