The Real Deal: Meeting the people on the ground in Wezda, Zimbabwe
Enhancing livelihoods and food security among rural communities in Zimbabwe is the promising name of one of our successfully running projects in Zimbabwe that demonstrates the lasting impact of Progressio’s people powered development approach.
But have you ever wondered what a project like this actually looks like? What work do people do every day? How results are achieved?
And, can a grassroots project have a real impact on the lives of the local people?
The answer is, yes, it can.
Progressio Ireland’s director Judith Turbyne travelled to Zimbabwe to have a look at the ongoing developments and to meet the people who are involved in this project: The partner organisations’ staff and teaching personnel, Progressio Development Workers and of course and most of all, the local farmers.
In Zimbabwe agriculture currently accounts for about 20% of the country’s GDP. The sector has however been characterized by massive decline in productivity over the past decade, mainly due to the country’s disastrous and under-performing land reform programme. Other factors that have affected agricultural potential in the country include climate change induced droughts and floods and an unstable political environment that has discouraged international support and investment in the sector.
To tackle these pressing issues and to encourage a lasting change especially for vulnerable and marginalised people in Zimbabwe, Progressio supports its partner organisation “Environment Africa”. Together we aim to improve the quality of life of the local people through more equitable and sustainable management of natural resources, especially in the light of climate change and resource scarcity. We are working on promoting agro ecology, sustainable and equitable farming approaches and easier access to markets through staff and community training on these subjects.
Environment Africa is a Private Voluntary Organization that was set up in 1990, whose main aim is to generate action towards protection, management and sustainable utilisation of natural resources for sustainable development. E Africa works by making strategic alliances at local, national, regional and international levels. The organisation has its regional office in Harare, Zimbabwe and has recently also opened programmes in Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
The project is based in Wezda, in the South-East of Harare. It focuses on building the capacity of EAfrica in implementing programmes around sustainable agricultural methods, market development, alternative energy sources and conservation of natural resources through a skills share process.
What does this actually mean?
Munyaradzi Samusodza, field officer of Environment Africa, explains the details of the project:
On a day to day basis, the project focuses on “nutrition gardening” and bee keeping which can play a significant role in terms of natural resource management.
On the agricultural side of the project, Environment Africa and Progressio staff work with a system called “Farmer Field schools” where a group of people from a community learn some new agro-ecological techniques on a particular plot of land. This for example also includes banning artificial fertilisers and pesticides. With their gained knowledge the farmers then go back to their own plot and apply these techniques while also sharing the newly learned skills with other members of their community.
The project is implemented on different levels. On the one hand farmers are able to supply their families with more nutritious food. But on top of that they produce additional products like pure, organic honey that they can sell to secure a more steady income. Therefore, beside the actual skill sharing with the farmers, E Africa also helps with approaching potential buyers of produce and negotiating various marketing routes for the products.
Ngonidzashe Mutema-Magwenzi is the extension worker for this project. She travels the far distance of around 11 km every day to teach farmers new techniques in gardening, planting different crops, pegging, live stocks and the marketing, branding and processing of foods:
Moses Gwatidzo is a local farmer who is involved with the farmer field school. He proudly presented his “evergreen fields”:
Munyaradzi Mupfupi – Chairmen of honey processing centre in Wezda, is very excited about the great success the centre has had so far. He is now planning to introduce bee keeping to the wider community and teach other locals how to benefit from the honey:
All in all, Judith was very excited to see the positive effects of the programme. The work of E Africa has helped to improve the production of the honey in Wezda, the better processing and marketing of the honey and to strengthen the control of the community over all these processes. Amazed with the positive development of the project she said:
Very often they [the projects] receive spectacular results. Local people are very enthusiastic about the projects they are involved in. In this time of economic difficulties and scarcity of economic resources at a household level, being able to generate your own inputs and to manage your land in that way is a great asset. On top of that, the results are convincing since with the introduction of new, fresh vegetable being available frequently, the nutrition of the families has improved.
Environment Africa is also promoting sustainable management of forest and water resources. The organisation is working to ensure that local people have sustainable and equitable access to natural resources while addressing resources scarcity, degradation and unsustainable patterns of global production and consumption in a context of climate change. Progressio is therefore helping to increase the capacity of civil society organizations so that they can engage with local and national governments and international environmental policy and practice. Through our projects it is ensured that many rural farmers, especially women, are empowered to enhance their economic productive capacity while reducing their socio-economic dependency.
This project is supported by Irish Aid