By Watmore Makokoba
Having endured persistent droughts, some rural communities have moved a step further from growing drought resistant crops to food processing and value addition.
Communities in Zimbabwe’s Zvimba District in Mashonaland West Province, will always cherish their participation in the climate change mitigation and resilience building programme sponsored by Bread for the World and implemented by Environment Africa.
One of the key impacts of climate change is food shortages and resultant malnutrition especially on women and children. Through the project, communities in Zvimba and Guruve in Mashonaland Central province went through conservation agriculture coaching.
Emphasis was on growing small grains to ensure food security particularly in times of droughts and floods.
Following last season’s bountiful harvests, farmers are now producing nutritious foodstuffs through value addition at household level, thereby curbing malnutrition and poverty.
Elizabeth Msona, of Ward 1 in Murombedzi, said food processing has seen her family becoming food secure and being able to meet other needs such as school fees from the sale of their products.
“We are making cakes, bread, porridge powder, fruit juice, peanut butter and fruit jam at home This has resulted in nutritional balance and food sufficiency. We sell some of the products locally and earn extra income for other needs.”
The project is part of the Climate Change Mitigation and Resilience building being undertaken by Environment Africa, working with partners that include Agricultural Extension Services (Agritex) and Rural District Councils.
During a field day held at Murombedzi business centre, Munyaradzi Kaundikiza, Environment Africa Project Officer, said there are 80 farmers field schools – 40 in Zvimba and 40 in Guruve.
At the beginning of the last season, famers were supplied with maize, sorghum, finger millet , cow peas , beans and sunflowers to kick start their projects.
“These are not new crops. They have always been there, but it’s only that communities had begun to shun them. Yet, with the current weather phenomenon where there is uneven distribution of rainfall, these crops have drought resistant characteristics compared to maize.
“The package encompasses pot-holing, inter-cropping, mulching and use of organic manure. It is a kind of a grand ecosystem , which if well managed, can help in building resilience against climate change at household level first and nationally,” said Kaundikiza.
People in Zimbabwe especially from the rural areas, used to eat a wider variety of traditional foods which are widely professed as healthier. However, modernisation has seen a decline in the consumption of traditional foods.
Aquiline Mushangwe, Agritex Extension officer for the area, described the initiative as the best model for fighting hunger and poverty especially for rural communities. The programme, said Mushangwe, should be scaled national level to ensure food security in the country.
“I am very grateful to see famers in this drought prone area producing sufficient food and becoming self-reliant. There is an improvement in the uptake of the programme by community members after witnessing (the) benefits from others,” said Mushangwe.
In 1995, the Zimbabwe government established a task force to recommend sustainable solutions to curb persistent hunger and malnutrition.
A policy document was prepared and in 1998, Cabinet agreed to a national consultative process to transform the policy framework into a national Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNS) and establish the Food and Nutrition Council as the lead agency under the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
According to the Agricultural Society of Zimbabwe, during the 2015/2016 season, over 70% of the maize crop was a failure with 30, 000 cattle succumbing to the El-Niño-induced drought.
This resulted in more than 4.6 million Zimbabweans – 30 percent of the population, requiring food assistance.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), vanguard of the Sustainable Development Goals, says without rapid and inclusive progress in eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030, the full range of the goals cannot be achieved.
“The battle to end hunger and poverty must be principally fought in rural areas , which is where almost 80% of the world’s hungry and poor live , therefore there is need for strong political will while also investing in the critical agents of change- stallholders, family farmers , rural women and other marginalised people”, says FAO.