BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
NKAYI is one of the poorest and marginalised districts in Matabeleland North and is characterised by low and erratic rainfall, frequent droughts and intra-seasonal dry spells.
A ZimVac 2013 report said poverty in Nkayi is the highest in the country as more than 76% of that rural population is living below the poverty line with more than 22% said to be extremely poor.
Amidst the sea of poverty, Hand in Hand Zimbabwe (HHZ), a civic group whose programming is biased towards poverty alleviation, is offering a glimmer of hope for the poor in the district.
Under its community upliftment, market linkages and green enterprises projects programming, HHZ has trained and equipped villagers in the district with entrepreneurial skills that will potentially shift their focus from surviving on agriculture alone.
The intervention, that has transformed people into successful entrepreneurs, targets at least 80% women in support of Millennium Development Goal three, which aims at promoting gender equality and empowering women.
Southern Eye on Sunday recently visited a number of villages in the Nkayi and witnessed life-transforming projects undertaken by villagers such as goat production, fodder production, broiler production, horticulture, sheep production and baking among others.
At Mfundajajela village in ward 18, there is a 10-member group called Susunyawo, which is into goat farming.
The group currently has 35 goats.
“We are no longer struggling to fend for our families like we used to. This project is very helpful,” the group’s secretary Nomusa Ndlovu said.
To raise the money to kick-start the project, members started by venturing into a brickmaking project.
The group sells about eight goats annually for anything between R500 to R700 per goat and shares the proceeds.
The group’s vision is to become one of the major goat suppliers in Nkayi.
For coming first in the HHZ competition, the group got 15 goats, roofing material, 14 bags of cement and a fence.
At Nkabe village in ward five, Vusanani group members have ventured into vegetable gardening.
Consisting of 12 members, the group started vegetable gardening in February this year and have since realised a profit of more than $4 000.
They sell a bundle of choormolia for $30.
“After five years we are looking forward to having a grinding mill,” the group’s chairperson Dumisani Sangweni said.
Another group member, Willie Ncube (76) said his aim was to leave behind an inheritance for his grandchildren.
“I was employed as a welder at a company called Radar Metals in Harare from 1972 to 1989, but was retrenched with nothing,” Ncube, a grandfather of 54, said.
“I never got anything from my pension contribution.
“Now I get solace from this garden and I look forward to leaving an inheritance for my grandchildren.”
Another member, Thandeka Mpofu said she managed to buy two goats from the project proceeds.
“I am no longer waiting for my husband for things like school fees,” she said.
HHZ donated a solar powered borehole and a fence to the group. Further down in Dandadema village in ward 22 there is Kukhanya group which specialises in baking. Per week, they produce more than 30 loaves of bread and 450 plain buns.
A loaf of bread costs US$0,50 or US$1 for two, cream doughnuts cost US$0,50 for two and plain buns $5 each.
The group’s vision is to grow and purchase a grinding mill for stockfeed.
“We want to develop our community in Nkayi,” Sikhangele Sibanda, a group member said, adding: “HHZ gives you a hook not a fish.
“We wish to tell others that it’s important to work for themselves.”
The 11-member group is, however, currently affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted its market.
“We used to supply shops in other communities but because of Covid-19 restrictions, we are now not able to do so,” Sibanda said.
As part of measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19, the government introduced a 6pm to 6am curfew as well as banning intercity travels.
HHZ assisted the groups with training in customer care, value addition, budgeting, marketing among others.
“HHZ projects are building socio-economically resilient communities through entrepreneurship.
“Most of the entrepreneurs are adapting to climate smart livelihoods as these are the best alternatives for them to generate income for their survival or upliftment,” Godknows Sithole HHZ area manager, said.
“HHZ is supporting communities in Lupane and Nkayi with software and hardware support under the jobs creation project, market linkages project and community upliftment project.
“Such initiatives are yielding positive impacts amongst these communities as they have created employment for HHZ supported entrepreneurs.”
HHZ was registered as a non-profit making organisation in July 2015 and is currently supporting communities in seven districts, which include Bulilima, Chikomba, Chirumanzu, Gwanda, Lupane, Nkayi and Shurugwi.
With such life-changing projects, Nkayi, whose road network is in a deplorable state owing to the government’s negligence, will rise again.