Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
WHILE the Covid-19 may have left citizens devastated by loss of business and jobs, others have used the opportunity to start gardening projects to improve their families’ livelihoods.
A random check around Chinotimba and Mkhosana high density suburbs in Victoria Falls showed that almost every household now has a booming vegetable garden.
Over the years, Victoria Falls residents would rely on buying vegetables from Zambian vendors popularly known as omzanga who would cross the border daily using temporary passes to sell goods including vegetables, tomatoes, green mealies, sweet potatoes and second hand clothes.
Some vegetables also came from as far as Lupane and Umguza districts as well as Bulawayo, Chegutu, Harare and Gokwe.
Because of the distance, vegetables were expensive in Victoria Falls where a bundle that is generally worth US$1 in Bulawayo was sold for between US$3 and US$5 in Victoria Falls.
Kalahari soils which make farming less viable and borehole drilling unthinkable also contributed to less people doing gardening as there are no community boreholes like in other towns.
People would afford to buy vegetables from shops and vendors and not worry about growing their own because they had disposable income from the tourism industry.
However, the outbreak of Covid-19 changed lifestyles as many have been left jobless.
While some have resorted to complaining about life becoming tougher or others resorting to flouting lockdown regulations by frequenting drinking spots such as shebeens, others have become industrious and started viable horticulture businesses that have literally turned Victoria Falls green.
Mr Herbert Masunda of Chinotimba, who was employed by African Sun, said gardening has become his family’s source of income.
“I have been doing gardening as hobby for many years but now because of lockdown I have realised that it’s actually a source of livelihood. I have more time to work in the garden because I have nothing else to do and this has improved our livelihoods because we now have enough vegetable supply for consumption. We also sell some and use the money to buy mealie meal and other basics,” he said.
Mr Masunda said he can make US$5 per week.
“There are few customers these days because of the situation as almost everyone is growing vegetables in their backyards,” he said.
Mrs Sikhangeziwe Nyathi of Mkhosana said she makes US$5 per day from her garden.
She is one of dozens residents who established gardens at an open space near Smart Corner.
“I have been doing gardening since 2009 but this time I have plenty vegetables compared to other years. This is because I have nothing else to do since I am not going to work because of the lockdown and have dedicated all the time to gardening.
“On a good day I can get US$5 and we are able to buy mealie meal, meat and other basics from that. Generally, almost everyone now has a garden and some come here to get suckers and seedlings for their gardens. So, we are now drying most of the vegetables because you may not know what the future holds, we may run out of water and need these dried vegetables in future,” she said.
Some have started community gardens here and they work as groups.
Ms Loveness Nyoni, coordinator of Energy Star Smart Garden which was established by 20 members on 18 May in Mkhosana said: “This has become a source of income. We are members of Women’s Voice
Housing Cooperative Society Limited and people had stopped paying subscriptions because of the situation, but since we started the garden, we have resumed paying using money from sale of vegetables.”
The 20 members fetch water from Ms Nyoni’s nearby house for the garden and share the water bill.
The taskforce on Covid-19 has also capacitated residents and villagers outside Victoria Falls with seedlings to start gardening projects.
Pastor Stanfordias Ndlovu who heads the pastors’ wing of the taskforce said the idea is to mitigate against effects of Covid-19 and make sure families have food.
“Many are now selling to the feeding scheme hence they have stable source of income for the time being,” he [email protected]