BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
The large baobab tree could be seen from a distance as it protruded in the sparse bushes of rural Mt Darwin. The existence of this giant flora tells the story of an arid region, characterised by high temperatures and frequent droughts.
But under the baobab tree were lavishly growing plants that provided an eye-catching panorama.
The greenery under the and all round the massive baobab tree is Mt Darwin’s Majerejere Nutrition Garden, a success story that has become an example of how marginalised communities can alleviate hunger and improve nutrition through the use of modern irrigation technologies.
The garden was developed in 2018 and since then has improved access to nutrition for 545 households with 2 700 people. In total, the project has benefited 4 700 people.
The surrounding community is also indirectly benefitting by purchasing fresh vegetables from the garden and drawing water from the borehole.
The garden, stretching for over six hectares, offers a variety of vegetables, fruit trees, maize and boasts of two solar-powered boreholes, a project that has brought relief to the poverty-stricken communities, who are currently also benefitting from clean water for consumption as well as watering their livestock.
The World Food Programme (WFP)’s Food Assistance for Assets (FAA) programme in Mt Darwin is being implemented through a partnership with World Vision and Plan International, while being funded by the Japanese government.
The project has turned this patched corner of Mt Darwin into a thriving greenbelt through solar-powered irrigation projects that have enabled villagers to produce all-year round.
Climate change effects have had a heavy toll on Zimbabwe, with close to seven million people in both rural and urban areas in dire need of food assistance this lean season, according to latest findings by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee.
“Our food for assets programme in Mt Darwin is helping communities increase food productivity, reduce the impact of climate shocks and strengthen resilience to natural disasters by creating productive assets. The communities are equipped with skills like smart agriculture techniques and soil water conservation techniques that preserve natural resources,” WFP country director Eddie Rowe said.
“In addition, work was done to reclaim watersheds, thereby protecting community woodlots. These efforts will overtime improve water management and increase vegetation cover. Communities were taught composting and the farmers were encouraged to plant drought-tolerant crops which are less susceptible to erratic rains. Members of the nutritional garden do not only have food on their table throughout the year, but are also able to access diverse and nutritionally rich food.”
Government has been relying on donor funding, while there has been no meaningful efforts to increase agricultural production through employing modern technologies and empowering villagers to become self-sustainable.
Speaking during the handover of Majerere Nutritional Garden, Japanese ambassador Toshiyuki Iwado said it was high time the country seriously tackled the issue of food insecurity and come up with ways of improving productivity.
“And donors, including Japan, have continued to provide support for the most food insecure communities in Zimbabwe for many years. Our assistance and that of other donor countries can only support the efforts of Zimbabweans, so I strongly urge the government to seriously consider the issue of food insecurity and come up with ways of ensuring food security for its people,” he said.
The negative effects of climate change have resulted in the country facing massive food shortages, with government mulling to implement the smart agriculture concept to mitigate hunger.
Government introduced the Command Agriculture scheme a few years ago hopi ng to financially empower both communal and commercial farmers, while others received farming equipment from other countries. However, the programme failed to address the major problem of hunger due to droughts and corruption.
With the wrath of successive droughts still expected in Mt Darwin district, thousands of villagers have something to smile about as the garden project has proved to be a success.
The Majerejere project is an epitome of how government can empower its own people to eradicate hunger and enhance food security.