Hwange which falls under the agro-ecological zone 4, characterised by high temperatures and low rainfall has been struggling in socio-economic development for the past few years, now nutritional gardens have come to the rescue.
The good rains received in the 2020/21 agricultural season cannot easily rehabilitate the social stress and economic damage caused by three successive years of climate change-induced droughts in the district.
A recent visit by The Citizen Bulletin to various nutrition gardens reveals that the gardens are fast becoming the hope of the communities to evade hunger and poverty. Nutrition gardens are being coordinated by villagers with technical support from the Agritex department and other supporting organisations.
Annual ZIMVAC Rural Livelihood Baseline Profiles notes that north-western Zimbabwe which includes Hwange district is a dry, remote and a resource-poor area suffering from chronic food insecurity.
“Cultivation of maize, sorghum, millet and pulses is unreliable and wild foods are consumed during the lean season. Infertile soils, adverse weather conditions, foraging wild animals and poor input and output market access are the biggest constraints to crop production,” notes the 2020 report.
Hwange district is increasingly engaging in nutrition gardens. A notable scheme is the government-owned Lukosi irrigation nutrition garden which measures 29,2 hectares, accommodating 73 beneficiaries with the majority being women.
In filling the gap, World Vision, an international non-governmental organisation has facilitated the establishment of about 21 of these irrigation schemes across the Hwange district. Speaking to The Citizen Bulletin, Word Vision Hwange Area Manager Mr Lovemore Nyoni notes that, one of the root causes of rural poverty in Hwange is drought.
“Due to climate change, droughts have become more frequent and more severe leading to serious crop and livestock losses and therefore, food insecurity for many families. The objective is to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable households to drought and other disasters that threaten to disrupt the livelihoods of families in Hwange,” says Nyoni.
In a bid to uplift the lives of the indigenes’ World Vision adopts climate-smart agriculture techniques through solar-powered pumping systems, dams and irrigation systems which allow all year round farming and therefore, higher yields and more crop diversification.
“This leads to more food and income through vegetable sales for households. More income means families can better take care of their children. The end game is to ensure families have a better capacity to provide for their children. Moreover, the families sell some of the vegetables which improve family income. Better income means families can better take of other needs of children,” continues Nyoni.
Hwange Rural District Councillor of Lukosi ward Councillor Ishmael Kwidini says there are many benefits coming with nutrition gardens in the nutrition gardens and the Lukosi irrigation scheme.
“The government assists with inputs. The gardens are essential for food security from produce in the garden, they also give occupation to jobless villagers and create hope of development regardless of climate change,” says Kwidini.
In addition to the projects making a significant impact on the nutritional status of beneficiaries, they are also improving income. The Citizen Bulletin observed that the majority of vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, broccoli, pepper, butternuts, eggplant, carrots and maize being produced were not limited for home consumption and there were enough volumes for sale.
Some of the beneficiaries who spoke to this publication say nutrition gardens are not limited to daily agriculture but are life-changing projects.
“For the past years, I have been farming in the irrigation scheme but I worked hard despite climate change effects. I now supply a local supermarket in Hwange with fresh produce. I have a contract. I have bought cattle; build a standard house and a motor vehicle I use for my errands,” says NaMapho, an irrigation farmer.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin