BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
Alfonsina Mukomanzi (53) from Mafaore village monitors progress as fellow women water their horticultural crops at Chebvute in Tadzembwa village, Masvingo rural district.
To her, life has changed as the proceeds from the 3,5-hectare piece of land supported by a solar-powered irrigation water system are enough for her survival.
“Since 2017 when this project started, life has never been the same,” Mukomanzi said.
“This integrated livelihood support concept has done wonders for me and fellow villagers.
“All the beneficiaries are living testimonies on how life can be easy due to availability of nutritious food as well as accessibility of money.”
Mukomanzi, a mother of three, is among several villagers who are beneficiaries of the World Food Programme (WFP)-initiated integrated approach to resilience building, which brings together food assistance for assets (FFA) and R4 Rural Resilience Initiative (R4) in Masvingo province.
The programme that is being implemented by partners — Aquaculture Zimbabwe (AQZ),International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT), Goal, The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and Old Mutual — is funded by SDC, USAid and France.
“At Chebvute Garden, we are 92 beneficiaries and 32 of them are men,” she said.
“We grow a variety of crops before we channel the proceeds to other projects like poultry and goat production.
“As a group, we also have a VSL programme where members benefit through credit facilities before repaying the money with interest. It is working and our lives have improved.”
Villagers have harvested 710kg of sugar beans with each going home with a 5kg for nutritional purposes while the surplus, 250kg, was sold to other locals.
“We are selling the beans for a US$1 for two cups or US$27,50 per bucket within the community,” Mukomanzi said.
“The proceeds from the beans sales were used to buy day-old chick broilers that you see around here.
“We have some hens [road runners] that are already laying eggs. We are selling the eggs for US$1 for seven. Some of the proceeds are being used for maintenance of the irrigation system here.”
Mavingei Masapi (45) from Masvaya village is one of the beneficiaries of the integrated approach to resilience building which brings together FFA and R4 activities.
The mother of two, however, is part of the team that is in honey production in the area.
The team was given 14 beehives under the project and made their first harvest last year.
“We were initially given 14 beehives, but we now have around 60,” Masapi said.
“We made our first harvest for this year on May 17 and managed to get 24 bottles of honey which we are selling at US$5 each.
“So far we have sold 18 bottles and we are waiting for another harvest this winter. The proceeds from the honey sales are being channelled to the voluntary savings and lendings (VSL) where members can get money through borrowing.
“We will then share the profits by year-end and this has seen people managing to fend for themselves.”
The integrated resilience building project at Chebvute started off with the community taking part in the construction of a weir.
To ensure maximum use of the water source, the community is also set to benefit from fish farming after thousands of fingerlings were deposited into the dam.
The garden chairperson Julius Siwadi said 2 100 households with an estimated total of 670 cattle, hundreds of goats, sheep and donkeys are benefiting from the weir dam.
In a statement, WFP said a number of villagers were trained on various activities to help build their resilience.
“Through capacity strengthening programmes, the community was trained in aquaculture, horticulture, apiculture, leadership and poultry rearing by Aquaculture Zimbabwe in partnership with Crop and Livestock Department extension officers,” reads the statement.
“In 2018, Chebvute was the site where the R4 was launched with additional interventions in financial education, weather index insurance, promotion of appropriate agricultural practices and seeds and market linkages, with additional support from partners to strengthen and build resilience within the community.”
In Mwenezi district, the WFP is also overseeing the Zambuko Project, supported by USAid, that is targeting 6 000 households with resilience building activities by 2022.
Some of the activities being implemented in one of the country’s driest regions are improved equitable management of shared resources, improved smallholder agricultural production, improved access to finance and markets and livestock management activities, among other things.
Mwenezi Development Training Centre (MDCT) director Promise Makoni said a lot of lives have been transformed for the better.
“The objective of the Zambuko Livelihoods Initiative is to strengthen and diversify livelihoods among poor villagers in Mwenezi district who have c become vulnerable to recurrent shocks and crises,” Makoni said.
“The programme has strengthened social cohesion, nutrition, and empowerment of youth. women constitute 57% of beneficiaries, hence they are able to take decisions at household level thereby reducing cases of gender-based violence.
“Ownership of small livestock has increased to an average of 25 chickens per farmer and six goats. As a result, there is commendable food diversification within the communities due to the variety protein of sources.”
The Zambuko Livelihoods Intiative promotes an integrated approach to resilience building and seeks to improve smallholder farmers’ production, their governance of community resources and access to finance and markets.
“As a result, households will be less vulnerable to recurrent crises as community assets are better utilised and incomes increase,” said WFP.
“The initiative is also contributing to strengthening social cohesion within communities for better resilience incomes.”
According to villagers in Mwenezi, the construction of small dams has benefited their livestock by ensuring the availability of water.