Urban dwellers in parts of Mat South say farming could be a solution to food security threat; the impediment is a lack of land.
Gladys Nyoni, a widow and mother of four children from Mathendele Suburb in Plumtree, has a small garden in her yard where she grows vegetables and occasionally maize crop. She desires to get land where she can grow produce to feed her family. She says putting food on the table has become very difficult, and growing crops will ease her food challenges.
“As urban dwellers, we also need to venture into agriculture to help ease our food challenges. I’m self-employed, and the COVID-19 pandemic has really affected me.” There is no land available for us to venture into agriculture and the least I can do is plant a few crops in my small garden in my yard. Most of the time, I grow vegetables, and during summer, I put maize, but it’s a drop in the ocean,” she says.
Nyoni says there is a need for the town council to set aside land where residents can conduct viable agricultural activities. She says she does not have in the rural areas where she can farm. Once the land is available, she insists the government should consider assisting urban farmers with inputs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected food security for many households. The pandemic era has seen many families begin various projects such as chicken rearing, crop production and livestock production.
Like other provinces, residents in urban Matabeleland South Province desire to conduct farming activities, but the lands are unavailable. Agricultural activities have significantly assisted households in urban areas to ensure food security over the past decades.
Lorraine Nare from Spitzkop North Suburb in Gwanda says she used to conduct her farming on a piece of land near the town’s outskirts, but the area now has houses. The produce she harvested assisted her in feeding her family, especially during the farming season.
“It’s difficult to get vacant land because the town continues to expand and residential areas are expanding. I used to harvest a significant amount of produce, and I would dry some of my maize crops and later mill it to get mealie meal. My produce would last me for several months,” she says.
According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), 2020 Urban Livelihoods Assessment, only 19 per cent of urban households across the country were practising urban agriculture in 2020. 64% of urban households were not practising urban agriculture as they did not have access to land. Matabeleland South has the lowest number of households practising urban agriculture with only 6%.
Eighty-seven per cent of households in Matabeleland South pointed out that they were not engaging in urban agriculture due to poor land access. Other reasons for not growing crops included prohibition by council regulations, lack of time, lack of interest and late rains’ onset. The ZimVAC report recommends that Government must operationalise the urban agriculture policy.
Matabeleland South acting Provincial Agricultural Officer, Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, says urban agriculture is very low in the province. He says a few households are attempting to do peri-urban agriculture, but the land is limited. However, some homes in Gwanda and Plumtree have turned to horticulture.
“Households in urban areas are struggling with food security, and if ever there was a time when urban agriculture is needed the most, it’s now. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected people, and their livelihoods and farming is one of the ways people can put food on the table for their families,” he says.
He says Government is starting to consider urban farming, especially during the summer, but it was yet to be implemented in Matabeleland South Province.
Gwanda Municipality mayor Cllr Njabulo Siziba says there is little urban agriculture in Gwanda due to limited land. He says there are farms at the outskirts of the town which could be turned into plots that can be allocated to residents, but they have not been officially handed over to the municipality.
“We need land so that people can practise urban agriculture. As a council, we have three farms, but they haven’t been officially handed over to us yet, so at the moment, residents can’t farm there. At the moment, there is a 10-hectare garden were farmers are conducting subsistence farming, but this is nothing considering the number of households in the town,” he says.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin